Mass. Mayor's Cannabis Corruption Trial Pushed Off

By Cara Salvatore
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Law360 (April 6, 2020, 10:41 PM EDT) -- A Massachusetts federal judge has delayed until September the trial of a former mayor on charges he extorted would-be marijuana businesses for required licenses, according to court records posted Monday, after the district's chief judge last week ordered all April and May trials delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock made the decision after a hearing Monday, according to docket records, pushing the trial to Sept. 14 after originally being scheduled for early May. The chief judge of the federal district ordered on March 30 that trials "scheduled to begin on or before May 29, 2020, are continued pending further order of the court."

Former Falls River, Massachusetts, mayor Jasiel Correia and his former chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, face charges in connection with Correia's alleged extortion of hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana businesses that needed his approval to open.

In case the court decides Andrade will be tried separately, that trial is now set for Nov. 9, according to docket notes.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on the development. A representative for Correia was not immediately available for comment.

In Massachusetts, a marijuana business owner must receive a "letter of non-opposition" from the leader of its local government in order to open. Prosecutors believe Correia used his position in Falls River to extort bribes from at least four businesses.

Before the scandal broke, Correia was already under indictment on charges he stole from investors in an app he developed. He is also accused of soliciting bribes from a building owner seeking permits, and prosecutors said he required Andrade to pay him half her salary in exchange for her job as chief of staff.

Recently, the judge altered a protective order and allowed prosecutors to share information about the allegedly extorted businesses with the state's marijuana regulator, the Cannabis Control Commission. The commission may receive reports from investigators' interviews with the at least four marijuana vendors tied to Correia's case, the judge ruled.

The commission had asked prosecutors for the reports as part of its regulatory duties, according to court records. It must act if anyone associated with a marijuana business has "committed, permitted, aided, or abetted any illegal practices in its operations."

Correia is represented by Kevin J. Reddington.

The government is represented by Zachary Hafer and David Tobin of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts.

The case is U.S. v. Correia et al., case number 1:18-cr-10364, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

--Additional reporting by Diana Novak Jones. Editing by Adam LoBelia.

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