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Welcome to my live coverage of opening statements in the trial for former Fall River Major Jasiel Correia; the then-23 year old Mayoral prodigy who quickly fell from grace following his arrest on extortion charges by Federal authorities in September of 2019.
The trial is taking place in Boston at the Federal Courthouse under the supervision of U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock and is expected to last 3 weeks from this point in time (with jury selection having taken place last week over 4 days).
Correia faces a total of 24 counts during the trial, including tax fraud related to his company called SnoOwl, along with extortion and bribery charges related to local cannabis companies.
According to a press release from Federal officials at the time, Correia was "arrested and charged for allegedly extorting marijuana vendors for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes; extorting a building owner for cash and a Rolex watch in exchange for activating the water supply to a commercial building; and demanding that his chief of staff give him half of her salary in return for appointing her and allowing her to keep her city job".
Find rolling updates below;
4:17PM: And we are done for the day. Dr. Cabeceiras' testimony (and a new live blog) will resume tomorrow at 9:30AM.
3:59PM: Now up, David Cabeceiras. A dentist from Fall River who invested a total of $145,000 in Correia's SnoOwl company.
3:42PM: Reddington now on cross; again points out how much Correia cared about SnoOwl and how "difficult it was to get SnoOwl on the Apple App Store".
3:34PM: Alex Bahlos is now testifying. He says he helped write the business plan for SnoOwl and was listed as a founder, but never had access to the company accounts.
3:07PM: Tobin asks Mello, "Were you aware that Correia spent $10,000 on a Mercedes-Benz?". Mellow replies, "I was not".
3:02PM: And we're back for the next witness, Christopher Mello; Mello was the developer who helped Correia create the SnoOwl app.
2:43PM: Parayno has stepped off the stand and Judge Woodlock indicates we will enter a 15 minute break.
2:37PM: We get our first cannabis question to a witness, as Parayno is asked about how many cannabis licenses would be allowed to open in the city. He says he does not recall an exact number but that Correia "did not want one on every street corner."
2:14PM: On cross for the defense, Reddington asks about how often the FBI met with him.
2:12PM: The Prosecution is now asking Parayno how often he went to casinos with Correia after SnoOwl was up and running. He says about once a month.
"Do you know if he was using the SnoOwl card?", asks the Government.
"I don't know what card he was using", says Parayno.
1:45PM: Next witness up is Correia's first chief of staff, Christopher Parayno. He is now the Director of Cemetery & Tree Divisions for Fall River.
Parayno is testifying about the history of the SnoOwl app.
1:38PM: On cross, Attorney Reddington asks Mendes if he and Mendez used the "FindIt credit card for meals. Mendes says they "took former Providence Mayor, the late Buddy Cianci, to Capital Grille."
1:32PM: Mendez says, when he left the company "FindIt", he gave the source code to Mr. Correia.
1:30PM: Mendez left "FindIt" in November, 2011, he tells the Court. Mendez says he left the company and divided up the assets with Mr. Correia because the company was not making very much money.
1:28PM: The Government is asking Mendez about the tax returns for the "FindIt" company (legal name "Common Solutions Inc" in the year 2010. Correia made roughly 1,000 USD from the firm that year according to Mendez.
1:21PM: Mendez confirms "FindIt" did become operational and brought in "a few thousand dollars".
1:15PM: The first witness for the prosecution, Alec Mendez, will now be called. Mendez was Correia's roommate at Providence College from 2009-2011 and worked with Correia on a website called "FindIt".
Before that happens, the Judge reminds all witnesses in the case that they are not to watch the trial live.
1:10PM: And we are back on the record.
11:52AM: We now break for lunch, with Judge Woodlock announcing the presentation of evidence in the case will begin after Court resumes in just an hour (or so).
11:50AM: The defense ends its opening statement and Judge Woodlock announces a short break for lunch. "Let me say this", says Judge Woodlock to the jurors, "You heard opening statements, this is where the parties think this is going to go...its your job to see if it goes there."
"You have to keep yourself insulated and sanitized from any taint from anything other than what transpires here today in the courtroom. You are not going to be considering anything else." Judge Woodlock clearly letting jurors know here that they are not to consider any outside coverage of the trial.
11:47AM: "The government ran out of paper giving out their immunity agreements and plea agreements here." says Reddington. It is becoming clear the defense aims to paint the cooperating witnesses as self-interested and, thus, not worthy of being considered by the jury.
I'm not sure how this strategy will play out.
11:42AM: Reddington is now getting to the cannabis allegations. He says the only evidence of Correia taking a bribe "comes from Costa".
Reddington also stated, somewhat strangely, that Host Community Agreements bring Fall River 50,000 USD per agreement. That number is far lower than the yearly payments for Host Community Agreements (which are often 3-4% of the revenue for location, per year).
11:22AM: The Defense is now beginning its opening statement. Kevin Reddington is Correia's lawyer, and he is presenting Correia's app, SnoOwl, as Correia's "baby". Notes that Correia's family wanted to move away from Fall River but he begged them to say. "He loves Fall River", says Reddington.
11:20AM: U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer directly brings up David Brayton, a Fall River citizen looking to open a cannabis location in the City. Tony Costa, who Hafer says is a real estate investor, illegal pot dealer and SnoOwl investor, is alleged to have helped Correia extort $250,000 from Brayton for a letter of non-opposition.
Those letters of non-opposition are a crucial first step to a cannabis applicant obtaining a license in the State; as that process begins at the local town or city level, a letter of non-opposition allows an applicant to move towards obtaining a "host community agreement" (which is, itself, needed before a state level provisional and final license can be obtained).
Earlier in the morning, Hafer displayed an "organized crime-style chart" to the jury. Correia was at the top, listed above several others who had already taken plea deal with prosecutors.