BOSTON — Former Fall River mayor Jasiel Correia II and his chief of staff and campaign manager, Gen Andrade, will likely go to trial in the alleged political corruption case of bribery and extortion on Jan. 13 as co-defendants despite their defense attorneys’ objections.
“I think unless there is a specific problem with the 13th of January that we’re going to be in the position on the 13th of January to deal with the case pretty expeditiously and we should do so. There is a public interest in doing so,” said U.S. District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock during a pretrial hearing on Tuesday. “As I said, I will do whatever I can to make it work and do whatever I can to stop it if I can’t.”
Woodlock said the alleged corruption case against Correia and Andrade was “pretty high on the list now of cases ready to go.”
Both Correia and Andrade were present during the 45-minute teleconferenced Zoom hearing, although neither spoke.
Woodlock denied Andrade’s request she made in January to sever the federal government’s case against her from Correia’s case and nor would he hold any further hearings on whether prosecutors used information she gave during an offer of immunity to a grand jury.
Correia and Andrade were set to go to trial in May but due to the COVID-19 pandemic all court proceedings were halted with trials just starting to come on line.
Correia is facing a total 24 federal charges that includes the alleged pay-to-play schemes of extorting $600,000 from marijuana vendors and allegedly taking half of Andrade’s $78,000 salary as chief of staff. Federal prosecutors also allege he received a Rolex watch in exchange for city-funded work done for one of his alleged co-conspirators.
He is also accused of bilking nearly $300,000 in investor money meant to develop a smartphone app in a company he started out of college and before elected as the city’s youngest mayor at the age of 23.
Andrade is facing six counts of federal charges for allegedly aiding Correia in the marijuana scheme with one vendor and bribery regarding her position as chief of staff.
During the hearing, Woodlock outlined a laundry list of Covid-related parameters for the upcoming trial, including not allowing any more than 26 people total in the courtroom.
“Trying to get everyone necessary in the courtroom is a challenge and so I’d like the parties to be thinking carefully who they think has to be in the courtroom on a regular basis,” said Woodlock.
“Ordinarily, of course, we’d want room for spectators, but the first order of business is as I’m concerned is to make sure we have designation for people who are actually participating,” said Woodlock.
He noted that there has been positive response from potential jurors with response indicating they are very civic minded despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health safety measures will also be employed. Woodlock said the court has been working with local health experts on how to proceed with opening court including requiring any witnesses who live outside of Massachusetts needing to quarantine for 14 days before appearing in the courtroom or produce a negative COVID-19 test.
Although, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary R. Hafer was in agreement to move forward with the Jan. 13 trial date, Andrade’s attorney, Charles Rankin was decidedly against it.
“I don’t think we’ve had enough experience with a jury trial, personally. I think we’ve had one jury trial in Boston,” said Rankin, referring to court proceedings since the COVID-19 outbreak. “I don’t want to be a guinea pig. I’ve spent seven months isolated and it’s not safe.”
Rankin noted that a trial in January was not necessary because neither Correia nor Andrade are in custody.
Correia’s defense attorney Kevin Reddington said he agreed with Rankin.
“I feel that this is going to be a complicated trial. I know Your Honor runs a very tight ship, but nevertheless it is going to be a very complicated trial and imagine trying this case under these circumstances. Even if we wait until April or May, things may clear up a bit,” said Reddington.
Woodlock requested that the defense attorney submit their concerns in writing and anticipated scheduling a number of pre-trial hearings before the Jan. 13 trial date.