Looks like former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia II will remain behind bars until at least 2027, now that he has lost his appeal before the 1st U.S. Court of Appeals.
"The record reveals that the defendant was fairly tried and lawfully convicted by an impartial jury in a trial presided over by an able judge and unblemished by any reversible error. For the reasons elucidated above, the judgment of the district court is affirmed," wrote the three-judge panel.
Correia, who reported to prison in Berlin, New Hampshire, in April to begin a six-year sentence for fraud and corruption, had his virtual day in court in late September, as federal appellate judges Sandra L. Lynch, Bruce Selya and Jeffrey R. Howard heard arguments on why he should have his convictions overturned or receive a new trial. In May 2021, Correia, once the city's youngest mayor, had been convicted of defrauding investors in his app company, SnoOwl, and shaking down marijuana vendors hoping to open up shop in Fall River.
Correia's appellate attorney, Daniel Marx, argued it was not a discerning verdict, that insufficient evidence had been presented and claimed prosecutors had "prejudiced" the jury against his client.
"Here the jury convicted Mr. Correia on 21 of 24 counts. Those included all of the wire fraud charges, all of the tax fraud charges and all of the charges related to marijuana vendors," said Marx.
He noted that the jury found Correia not guilty of only three "marginal" charges for which he claimed there was "really no evidence at all."
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What the judges said
But in an 82-page decision released Monday made public on Tuesday morning, Selya rejected those arguments, citing Correia's "chiaroscuro record," an art term meaning his record was black and white.
"The defendant attempts to sidestep the force of this evidence," Selya wrote. "He argues that he did not use false or fraudulent pretenses because his representations were, variously, puffery, true, or never uttered. And even if thestatements were made and were false, the defendant says, they were not material. This rebuttal is all foam and no beer."
One of Correia's arguments was that the jury was prejudiced against him because the two halves of the trial - the SnoOwl charges and the marijuana extortion charges - were tried together. "We discern no abuse of discretion in the district court's determination that the threat of prejudicial spillover did not require a new trial," the opinion states, noting the defendant "did not seek severance" - that is, splitting the trial into two parts - and credits the district court with doing "a yeoman's work" in preventing unfair prejudice.
"That verdict is strong evidence that the jurors fully understood that their decision on one count was separate and distinct from their decisions on the other counts," the opinion states. Jurors found Correia guilty of 21 of 24 counts, after four days of deliberation - the verdict slip, Selya noted, required that the jury make determination of guilt or innocence on each of the 24 charges.
Another of Correia's arguments centered on a video clip from a 2015 mayoral debate with Sam Sutter - in which Correia claimed his app company SnoOwl had made money for investors - which prosecutors presented during closing arguments; Correia's lawyers argued that it prejudiced the jury against him. "To be sure, statements made in the heat of a political campaign cannot and should not always be taken literally," Selya wrote, noting that the clip was presented three times, and the defense made no objections all three times. "That does not mean, though, that the campaigner is entitled to a free pass."
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What this means for Correia
The judge noted "the swiftness of the defendant's rise was matched by the swiftness of his fall," as Correia was the city's youngest mayor.
In May 2021, the jury convicted Correia of 21 counts of defrauding investors in the SnoOwl app before he was elected mayor, tax fraud related to SnoOwl, and political corruption by extorting marijuana businessmen during his two terms as mayor from 2016 to 2020.
However, before sentencing in September 2021, federal District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock threw out 10 of the guilty verdicts related to the SnoOwl case, on the grounds that prosecutors had provided insufficient evidence to prove those charges.
Correia's sentence is 2,190 days. If he stays out of trouble, he can earn a maximum of 324 days of good time credits, cutting his time down to 1,866 days - or, a little over five years and one month. He reported to prison in April, so he could be out by May 2027.
This article originally appeared on The Herald News: Ex-Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia's fraud, corruption appeal denied