Former Fall River mayor Jasiel F. Correia II was sentenced on Tuesday to 72 months in federal prison, beginning the next phase of Correia’s remarkable journey from the youngest mayor in Fall River’s history to convicted felon.  

Correia, now 29, was found guilty in May of extortion, extortion conspiracy, wire fraud and filing false tax returns after jurors spent four days deliberating the verdict. 

Before announcing his sentence, U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock compared Correia to a litany of Massachusetts politicians sent to prison on corruption charges, including James Michael Curley, a former Mayor of Boston, Governor of Massachusetts and U.S. Congressman who served a pair of jail sentences that bookended a half century in politics that ended in the early 1950s.

“City Hall was for sale,” Woodlock said of Correia’s administration. “Fall River under Jasiel Correia was like Atlantic City during prohibition in terms of the crudeness of the corruption.”

The jury in his May trial acquitted Correia on three counts, including accusations that he forced his chief of staff to give him half of her salary in order to keep her city job and, in a separate incident, that he provided a free hook-up to the city’s water system for an associate’s building in exchange for a Rolex watch.

On Monday, Woodlock overturned eight of the 21 counts of the jury’s guilty verdict against Correia. The judge said there was not enough evidence to back up several fraud counts related to money Correia took from investors in his social media startup “SnoOwl,” which he founded before taking office.

The judge said prosecutors never made it clear that Correia's bank used "wire communications" like the internet or a fiber-optic cable to deposit money in SnoOwl’s account, which Correia later used for personal expenses, including expensive hotel rooms, clothes, jewelry and a sports car. While that detail may seem trivial to an average person in Fall River, it’s essential toward determining whether a federal court has jurisdiction over the case.

The judge also vacated two fraud convictions related to inaccurate tax returns that failed to reflect the tens of thousands of dollars Correia took from his company in the form of personal expenses. The judge said prosecutors failed to prove that Correia knew he was obligated to report the money as personal income.

Correia’s first term as mayor, which began in 2016 when he was 24-years-old, overlapped with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, where newly written laws granted mayors almost complete control over a form of local approval dispensaries needed to open.

Four businessmen testified at Correia’s trial that the young mayor demanded cash payments that sometimes exceeded $100,000 in exchange for his approval.One businessman said he handed the mayor $75,000 in cash and received the approval letters for his proposed dispensary on the spot.

Correia was arrested twice while in office, refusing calls to step down on both occasions. In 2019, Correia was recalled from office by a majority of Fall River voters, then re-elected to replace himself on the same ballot by winning just 35 percent of the vote in a crowded field of candidates. Correia agreed to step back from his duties as mayor later that year.

His trial began this April, lasting four weeks before the jury returned 21 convictions against him. Correia — who did not take the stand in his defense — told reporters after his conviction that “the real truth” would come out and predicted he would be vindicated.

Correia has since hired new lawyers, who filed papers in July that persuaded the judge to throw out portions of the jury’s verdict.

But the charges that carry the strongest penalties — those related to Correia’s extortion of marijuana companies — remained in place. The judge said on Tuesday that he will allow Correia to turn himself into federal prison in roughly eight weeks. 

Correia heard the prison sentence only a few hours before polls closed in the preliminary election for Fall River’s first mayoral race since Correia left politics in disgrace two years ago. Mayor Paul Coogan defeated Correia in a 2019 election that saw Correia suspend his campaign three weeks before polls opened.  

The judge said he expects to rule Wednesday on the amount of financial penalties Correia will owe his victims and the government. Following his prison sentence, Correia is required to serve another three years of supervised release.

This story has been updated with additional information. Ben Berke is the South Coast Bureau Reporter for The Public’s Radio. He can be reached at bberke@thepublicsradio.org.