Crime

The Short, Wild Ride of Correia the Kid

Is he a white-collar criminal and corrupt politician, as federal prosecutors allege? Or is he one of the best mayors in Fall River history, as he insists? Maybe, somehow, Jasiel Correia could be both.


Jasiel Correia

Photo illustration by C.J. Burton

It’s a soggy autumn afternoon in Fall River, and I’m riding shotgun with the city’s baby-faced mayor when he says he wants to take me to a playground. But not just any playground—this one looks brand-spanking new and is done up in New England Patriots colors. “This is crazy, but Bob Kraft called my personal cell phone,” Jasiel Correia recalls, still sounding giddy about the experience. “He said, ‘We really like what you’ve been doing down there, we appreciate all the fans down there, and we want to give you a playground.’” Correia lingers for a while, admiring the jungle gym and slides, reveling in the memory of being the object of admiration to such a powerful man.

Sporting a black bubble vest and dark jeans, Correia whips a U-turn in his Mercedes G-Class and continues to drive me around for hours, pointing out the window and talking about his accomplishments. He shows me a small plaza that’s built around an obelisk commemorating Fall River’s Polish community. “Oh, they are in love with that!” he crows, before highlighting a freshly paved sidewalk dotted with shiny new streetlights. These streetscapes, he tells me, are a signature push of his administration and the centerpiece of his own version of the broken-windows theory. He expounds upon how if you can beautify the dumpy areas, hipster coffee shops, yoga studios, and other millennial-friendly businesses will always follow.

Soon after, we pull up to his crowning achievement: a vacant lot that looks three football fields long. For more than a decade, an abandoned cotton mill occupied the space. It was an eyesore to residents and a 24/7 fire hazard, Correia tells me. It was also a sorry reminder of a once-booming mill town that was down on its luck. Within weeks of taking over as mayor in 2016, Correia started looking for ways to unload the space, and he eventually auctioned it off to a developer who demolished the mill and is now planning to build a residential community with dozens of single-family homes. “When you think of a mayor—if you were going to make a movie about a quintessential mayor,” Correia says proudly, “you think of a major project like this.”

It’s quite possible that there may one day be a movie about Correia—in fact, he mentions a documentary crew that’s been following him around—but it likely won’t be the kind of film he has in mind. It’s been remarkably hard to tell from the triumphant tenor of our two-hour Jasiel Correia Accomplishments Tour, but the reality is that Correia now finds himself out of money, out of power, and largely reviled in the city that once revered him. He is also facing a 24-count federal indictment that includes charges of bribery, fraud, and extortion—including allegations that he shook down marijuana vendors for hundreds of thousands of dollars—not to mention the very real possibility of spending the next decade behind bars.

It’s been a dramatic and precipitous fall from grace for Correia, who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors for a tech startup before he could legally buy a beer, and who was elected mayor at the tender age of 23. There was talk of him being a political prodigy with limitless potential. He took junkets to the White House and France, and reporters, politicians, and investors all flocked to meet him. “The lieutenant governor and governor were down here more than they ever had been,” says John Brandt, who owns a cigar shop in Fall River and voted for Correia. “They loved the kid. He was full of great ideas.”

As I ride alongside Correia, listening to him fawning all over himself, he takes me to an industrial part of town and pulls into the parking lot of a sprawling Amazon warehouse. The real estate deal with Amazon was approved long before Correia stormed City Hall, yet he says he deserves credit anyway. After all, he explains, “There’s an old saying in politics that whoever cut the ribbon, it’s their accomplishment.”

That is most certainly not a saying. But it’s pretty clear to me that Correia’s okay with making up the rules of the game—so long as they benefit him—or even breaking the rules that don’t. In some ways, that’s precisely what voters elected him to do. He was a tech entrepreneur with a fresh vision for Fall River. He was younger than anyone in office before him and independent of Fall River’s entrenched political guard—a loose cannon beholden to no one. His ascendance seemed to signal that he and Fall River had a real chance of going somewhere. Until, that is, his ungovernable instinct for rule-breaking finally brought it all crashing down.

Jasiel Correia’s ascendance seemed to signal that Fall River had a real chance of going somewhere. Until, that is, his instinct for rule-breaking brought it all crashing down.

Awash in opioids, short on economic prospects, and home to one of the highest violent-crime rates in Massachusetts, Fall River is the type of postindustrial city that people often aspire to get away from. Not Correia. While other children dreamed of being firefighters, doctors, or lawyers, he dreamed of running his beloved hometown. When his parents, immigrants from Cape Verde and the Azores, finally scraped together enough money to move out of Fall River to live in a better school district, Correia says he changed their minds, insisting the family stay where they were so that when it came time for him to run for mayor, no one could challenge his die-hard-local bona fides. In fact, he didn’t leave his city until he went to Providence College—a full 20 miles away—on a scholarship to study political science.

From the start, Correia broke the mold of your typical college freshman. Joseph Cammarano, who was his college adviser and taught a political science course on elections, says that while other students barely read the course material—including The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns, which explores how big data is reshaping politics—Correia devoured it and looked for ways he could apply it to his own campaigns, including his runs for class president. “It was very clear this was someone who has a good instinct for politics,” Cammarano notes, “especially electoral politics.”

After graduating in 2013, Correia did what few kids who get out of Fall River do: He moved back, to headquarter a tech startup there. Correia’s company, SnoOwl, which he’d hatched while still in college, was developing an eponymous app capable of aggregating the social media posts of all businesses in a given region into a single stream of content to entice nearby consumers with offers and coupons. That same year, he scored his first investment—$50,000 from David Cabeceiras, a Fall River orthodontist and the father of a friend. Cabeceiras would go on to invest a total of $145,000, while others put in an additional $218,000.

While Correia could spin a sales pitch like few others, he wasn’t as polished when it came to the ins and outs of running a startup. “I had no formal experience or training—no one does, as an entrepreneur,” Correia says. So he figured it out on the fly and did whatever needed to be done, whether it was sketching illustrations of what the app should look like or hauling out the office trash. “I was the janitor, I was the office staff, I was everything,” he says. Eventually, Correia hired software engineers in Nepal to get a prototype working, and then linked up with a team of talented developers in New Bedford who started turning SnoOwl into a functioning app. “I was having the time of my life,” Correia says. “I had total control.”

SnoOwl had a sleek design and a proprietary algorithm, which meant it had potential to be purchased by a bigger, wealthier tech company, says Nick Bernier, who joined SnoOwl as corporate secretary and chief operating officer. With the business up and running, Correia announced he was going to take a first step toward fulfilling his destiny of becoming a public servant and run for city council. As he stumped and debated his way through the 2013 elections, Correia continually positioned himself as an innovator and small-business owner who could revolutionize his hometown. His political platform consisted of three pillars: improving public safety, creating jobs, and investing in Fall River’s schools. In a newspaper op-ed asking the city to take a chance on him, Correia played up the fact that he based his whiz-bang tech company in a run-down mill that he said was slowly turning into an incubator for other startups. Still, when the votes were counted for the nine city council seats up for grabs, Correia finished a disappointing 10th.

Voters may not have chosen him, but Correia wasn’t about to take his foot off the gas. After the mayor at the time, Will Flanagan, appointed one of the elected city councilors to the post of city administrator, it left a single seat vacant. Flanagan needed to fill it, and he saw potential—and a potential ally—in Correia. Closer than ever to his lifelong dream of breaking into Fall River politics, Correia could smell opportunity in the air—all he had to do was take it.

On August 14, 2014, Correia was working late at SnoOwl’s offices when he glanced at his cell phone and saw a missed call from Mayor Flanagan. Correia called him back and was told that they needed to meet, pronto. It was past midnight as Correia jumped into his Mercedes and cruised toward Boondocks Bar and Grill, where Flanagan had requested they meet. When he turned onto the street, Flanagan flashed the headlights of his Ford Explorer. As Correia pulled up next to him, the mayor told him to jump into the front seat for a quick ride. The whole setup seemed weird, like something from a gangster movie, but Correia parked his car and climbed into the mayor’s SUV, where Tommy Gosselin, a friend and political supporter of Flanagan’s, sat quietly in the back seat.

Correia knew that Flanagan was on the ropes politically. Residents were furious with him for implementing a so-called pay-as-you-throw program, which required citizens to buy special purple garbage bags to help fund the city’s trash program. The worst part was the bags weren’t cheap: an eight-pack of 15-gallon bags cost $10. In no time, outraged voters began collecting signatures to recall Flanagan. Correia and other council members felt public pressure to sign, and after a contentious council meeting a few nights earlier when residents shouted down their elected officials, Correia finally caved and added his signature.

Flanagan felt betrayed. Correia owed his city council seat to Flanagan, and now he wasn’t playing by the rules. According to Correia, as they drove along the city’s deserted streets in the dead of night, Flanagan calmly told Correia that he took the young man’s signature on the petition as a personal insult. He suggested Correia go to the press and say that he was forced to sign it by activists who were threatening his family. From the back seat, Gosselin hinted that it was “dangerous out there” and that it might be a good idea for Correia to buy a gun. That’s when Flanagan took out his handgun, placed it on the dashboard, and told Correia, “I never leave my house without this.”

Correia looked at the firearm sitting on the dashboard and told Flanagan he was growing uncomfortable, but the mayor insisted they needed to reach a resolution. Before he stepped out of the car, Correia assured Flanagan he would figure something out over the weekend.

After weighing his options, Correia followed his political gut: He met with Police Chief Daniel Racine and blew the whistle on how political favors work in Fall River. Correia didn’t want to press charges or file a complaint against Flanagan, he insisted, but he also didn’t think the incident should be swept under the rug. When Racine spoke to Flanagan about the allegations, though, Flanagan claimed it had been a simple misunderstanding: They were talking about obtaining gun licenses, Flanagan said, and Correia saw the gun holstered on his hip.

As far as the cops were concerned, it was a closed matter, but rumors of the confrontation started working their way through City Hall. Meanwhile, the recall movement was reaching a frenzied peak and public pressure on Flanagan was boiling over. That’s when Correia decided to once again break rank, appearing on a local radio show to share his side of the story. By the next day, public sympathy was on his side as news outlets blared headlines about the mayor who used a gun to bully the city’s freshest-faced politician.

Flanagan and his entourage repeatedly denied Correia’s version of events, but they couldn’t keep their stories straight. To get to the bottom of it, Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter appointed a special prosecutor to investigate. In the end, the prosecutor determined that Correia’s story was credible and that Flanagan’s was not, but there still was not enough evidence to file criminal charges. At that point, though, it didn’t matter. By going public about the night of the gun, Correia sealed Flanagan’s fate in the recall election and simultaneously earned himself the type of positive name recognition that most politicians only dream about. “The gun incident became an international story,” Flanagan tells me. “And locally, it was in the newspaper and on the radio, so yeah, the gun allegation gave Jasiel a platform.” The story dragged out in Fall River for weeks, and Correia played the cool, calm, collected victim to a tee.

After voters cast Flanagan aside, they elected Sutter to close out the remainder of his term. Soon after Sutter took office, he announced plans for a new trash fee—in addition to the purple bags. Correia quickly saw another opportunity. In his eyes, Sutter was an aloof establishment insider who was screwing over working families; what Fall River really needed was a radical reinvention. Correia knew he was the man for the job.

In no time, the young politician launched an insurgent campaign against Sutter, tapping into his preternatural ability to curry votes by playing up his Fall River roots and immigrant parents. Correia boasted of his success as a small-business owner and, most important, vowed to do the once unthinkable: go head to head with the unions, privatize the city’s sanitation services, and scrap Flanagan’s and Sutter’s trash fees. He was unlike anything Fall River had seen before: a young, charming tech entrepreneur who was eager to push the city into the future. Correia knew winning was still a long shot, yet when the votes were counted on November 3, 2015, the 23-year-old stood as the youngest mayor ever elected in the city.

Meanwhile, Correia seemed to forget all about SnoOwl. He stopped answering texts and calls from his COO, Bernier, who wanted to pursue a new round of financing or find a buyer. As weeks turned to months, Bernier started feeling uneasy. SnoOwl investors were growing increasingly impatient, and Bernier couldn’t make heads or tails of the company’s accounts or how it was spending its cash, since Correia kept all the bank records to himself.

In April 2016, four months after Correia took office as mayor, a SnoOwl adviser sent him an unsettling email. “Right now, neither [Bernier] nor I know where a substantial amount of investor money collected by SnoOwl has gone,” it stated, before raising concerns over money transfers between Correia’s personal and business accounts. “This is, at best, a horrible mistake, and, at worst, can be regarded as criminal if the funding gaps are not solved.”

Correia never acknowledged the email. He was too busy living his childhood dream.

Jasiel Correia

Fresh off winning a special recall election, Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia delivers a triumphant State of the City address. / Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

On a Wednesday evening in October 2018, the mayor of Fall River was dancing and singing along to superstar rapper J. Cole at the Grand, the bass-thumping nightclub in the Seaport where tabs for bottle service regularly run into the thousands. Exhausted afterward, Correia took an Uber back to a friend’s home in Bridgewater and passed out. Around 6:30 a.m. a thump, thump, thump on the door shattered the morning calm. Sleep still in his eyes and hair disheveled, Correia shuffled into the predawn light to discover a squad of FBI agents. Always image-conscious, his mind raced when he realized he was about to be arrested and didn’t have a suit to wear. If he was going to be dragged into court, he thought, he should at least look like a winner.

Agents drove Correia from Bridgewater to the Boston federal courthouse, where his parents met him with a navy suit and red power tie. Standing with his lawyer at his side, Correia was charged with defrauding SnoOwl investors and filing fraudulent tax returns. According to the indictment against him, Correia had used the company’s coffers like his personal ATM and systematically looted SnoOwl to the tune of $231,447—nearly two-thirds of the total invested—in two short years. Using investors’ funds, prosecutors charged, he’d bought his flashy Mercedes, repaid student loans and credit card debt, financed his mayoral campaign, and gone on a luxury vacation with his girlfriend. Along the way, the feds allege, Correia also told his investors half-truths and lies, including that he didn’t draw a salary and had previously designed and sold an app to a Cambridge-based venture capital firm, which promptly sold it to Facebook.

After listening to all of the charges against him, Correia walked out of the courthouse into a crowd of reporters. He denied the allegations and quickly turned on the political charm. “I’ve got a great family, great friends, and I love the city of Fall River,” he said. “I’m going to go back to my office tonight and get back to work serving the people of Fall River.”

Two weeks later, Correia was in full spin-control mode. From the top floor of City Hall, he gave a 30-minute press conference, complete with a slide show that included pictures of him hard at work on developing SnoOwl. He blew up several screenshots of what the app looked like, asked those in the crowd to raise their hands if they’d downloaded it, and even played an audio clip of U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling claiming that SnoOwl was never available to consumers but only reached the prototype stage. “That’s not true,” Correia scowled. The stunt still makes Correia swell with pride. “When most politicians get indicted, they resign and they retreat,” he tells me. “They do not hold press conferences calling out the U.S. attorney.” While Correia was busy going rogue, though, voters, fellow politicians, and business owners were growing increasingly concerned that their mayor was worried about himself and not the city he professed to love. An effort to recall Correia from office quickly picked up steam and an election was set for that March.

Correia didn’t blink. Even though his removal from office was nearly certain, he’d devised a plan to bend the recall process in his favor. The March ballot, he knew, would also include a space for voters to select someone to succeed him if he were recalled. Correia decided to run again, knowing that if the field were crowded, he’d need fewer votes to get reelected than he’d need to withstand the recall attempt.

Correia had five full months to do what he did best: win people over. He went door to door to reintroduce himself to potential voters, look them in the eye, deny the allegations against him, and talk up his victories as mayor. Indeed, he had plenty of ammo: Between the street improvements, new playgrounds, and construction of a new high school, the city was doing well under his leadership. Fall River’s rainy-day fund had ballooned from $500,000 to $8 million, and the trash fees were about to end. Even Flanagan, whom Correia helped oust from office, was impressed by what the young mayor had accomplished in a relatively short period of time. “The Correia administration did a lot of good things for the city,” he says.

Correia seemed confident when the March election rolled around but privately thought it was a crapshoot. “Nobody knew where it was going,” he says. When the votes were finally tallied, a solid majority—61 percent of voters—favored recalling him. It was a loud and clear mandate from the people of Fall River for him to step aside. But Correia’s plan to subvert that mandate also worked. Just as he’d predicted, the vote for the new mayor was split and Correia, who scooped up a 35 percent plurality, was both unelected and elected mayor in one fell swoop.

Early one Friday morning in September, six months after winning the recall election, Correia was playing tennis near the city’s waterfront, as he does most mornings. He was in the middle of a point when a man he’d never seen walked onto the court and flashed a badge. “What the hell is going on?” Correia asked. The stranger was short on details and told Correia that he needed to call his attorney at once.

Correia scrambled into his car, sped back to his apartment, and took a shower. When he got out, he called his lawyer. No answer. He called him again. Still no answer. Correia looked out his window and saw unmarked police vehicles outside. Once again, his biggest concern wasn’t being arrested; it was being arrested in front of cameras. He raced for his comb. If he was about to be perp-walked through his neighborhood in front of the voting public, he needed to at least look good. As he brushed his curly black locks and mulled over his choice of suit, Correia called his dad, who was worried sick. He told his son to drive over to their home, where there was more privacy. Correia walked outside and unlocked his car. The feds asked where he was going. “To my parents’ [house],” he replied. “No, you’re not,” an FBI agent responded, placing him into the back of an SUV and driving him to the federal courthouse in Boston.

This time the charges had nothing to do with SnoOwl or Correia’s life as a private citizen, and everything to do with his grip on City Hall. Unbeknownst to just about everyone, Correia and a coterie of associates had allegedly spent much of the summer of 2018 strong-arming marijuana vendors into paying steep bribes in exchange for so-called non-opposition letters. The letters are critical requisites for opening a pot shop anywhere in the state, and only mayors can grant them. Correia and his clique allegedly saw them as a gold mine.

That July, prosecutors allege, Correia drove to one marijuana vendor’s business in his city-issued Chevy Tahoe and picked up $75,000 in cash. Money in hand, Correia delivered the non-opposition letter. In another instance that summer, over dinner at a steakhouse, Correia and another marijuana vendor agreed that the vendor would pay six figures for a non-opposition letter. Afterward, the vendor delivered $150,000 and more than 10 pounds of pot to Antonio Costa, a friend and associate of Correia’s who has since pleaded guilty to his involvement in the scheme.

In yet another instance from that summer, according to law enforcement, a middleman named Dave Hebert, who has also pleaded guilty, suggested to a marijuana vendor that he could procure two letters from Correia for the right price. After a series of meetings, including one in Correia’s City Hall office where the pot-shop owner agreed to pay the bribe, Correia issued the letters. In exchange, a $60,000 debt owed by Hebert to the pot-shop owner’s brother allegedly disappeared and $25,000 in donations were funneled to Correia’s campaign.

In addition to SnoOwl and the pot-shop bribes, it surfaced that Correia had also allegedly exchanged construction permits for a Rolex and forced his chief of staff and alleged coconspirator, Gen Andrade, to give him half of her salary. As the charges piled up, it looked as if Correia’s wild ride had finally come to an end. And with his term as mayor nearly over anyway, Fall River would soon need to elect a new leader to clean up the mess.

Jasiel Correia

Seven months later, in the wake of federal charges against him including extortion and filing false tax returns, Jasiel Correia announces his decision to take a leave of absence and press pause on his reelection campaign. / Photo by Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As it turned out, the city council believed Fall River couldn’t wait until the November election to get rid of Correia and tried to oust him from office. Governor Charlie Baker and U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy III also urged him to resign. But Correia didn’t budge. Instead, he got busy planning one more comeback.

Armed with an unusual strategy, he plotted another end run around the electoral process. Correia invited several dozen of his closest supporters to a closed-door meeting at LePage’s Seafood & Grille, a casual surf-and-turf joint on the city’s waterfront. “First and foremost, we’re winners,” he told the crowd, which erupted into applause and cheers. Nevertheless, Correia told his fawning fans, there was simply no way he could defeat frontrunner Paul Coogan in a traditional “mano a mano, one-on-one” election in November. So, he said, he needed the crowd’s help to win in an “untraditional” manner. Correia assured everyone in the room that he knew of at least one person who was planning to launch a write-in campaign and indicated that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if two or three other write-in candidates did the same. “I think everybody can read in between the lines,” Correia said. “We make it a multi-person race, like the recall. It will turn that campaign on its side.”

The following day, someone leaked an audio recording of the meeting to Fall River Herald News reporter Jo Goode, who posted it online. Correia attempted to dismiss the leak by tweeting that Goode was acting as though she’d uncovered the “Ukraine and Trump tapes,” but the secret meeting had enraged folks across Fall River. City council members immediately ratcheted up their calls for Correia to resign until finally, less than a month before the November election, he succumbed to the pressure and announced he would step down.

Once again, though, Correia found an unconventional path out of office—a loophole, if you will—that would benefit him enormously. Rather than resign, he took a leave of absence until his term expired. The key difference? He could still collect his $119,000 salary through the end of the year, even though he wouldn’t be working. Taxpayers were furious, but Correia saw nothing wrong with his decision. Among other things, he needed the money for legal bills, and he’s absolutely entitled to it, he tells me: “I’ve literally saved the city millions of dollars and people are going to get upset that I’m retaining the salary I was elected to and can legally retain? C’mon.”

Never one to focus on the negative, Correia announced his leave of absence at a press conference he staged near the construction site of the city’s new high school—a project he approved. Sporting a sharp blue suit and perfectly coiffed hair, he did not apologize for anything, nor did he say he would do anything differently given the chance. Instead, he stuck to his playbook, spending nearly 10 straight minutes rattling off his accomplishments as mayor. “This is not goodbye; it’s far from it,” he promised. “I fully expect to lead this city on the rise once again in the future.”

As we wrap up our lengthy, up-tempo driving tour of Fall River, Correia and I head to BarCa, a bright, modern Portuguese restaurant that he still feels comfortable visiting, largely because his girlfriend’s family owns it. We grab seats at the end of the bar and order a couple of beers, two cups of vegetable soup, and a pair of sandwiches before picking through the fresh wreckage of his career. “I never wanted to be one of those people who grips onto power for the sake of gripping onto power,” Correia says while soft electronic music fills the air and a big-screen TV tuned to the Portuguese equivalent of CNN carries the latest headlines. “I wouldn’t have been true to myself if I didn’t take the leave of absence.”

As we talk, there is a flickering moment when I sense for the first and only time that he can feel the walls closing in on him. “If I get convicted,” he tells me, “I’m not ready for that. No one is.” He spends the rest of the meal insisting he did nothing wrong and singing his own praises. There were definitely missteps with SnoOwl, he says, but they were merely due to inexperience. Never in a million years, he says, should those missteps be misconstrued as federal crimes. As for the alleged extortion of marijuana companies? The charges are completely bogus, he says, based on evidence cooked up by shady informants.

One possibility he floats to explain his downfall is that his youth and take-no-prisoners approach to politics upset the natural order of Fall River. He made plenty of enemies as he fulfilled campaign promises and toppled the city’s ancient power structures. As a result, he says, a miniature deep state of Fall River’s elder statesmen and a single spurned SnoOwl investor colluded to take him down. It’s a conspiracy theory with plenty of holes, and I half-expect Correia to wheel out a corkboard and spool of string to explain it.

Indeed, the list of people Correia blames for his undoing is longer than the indictment against him. He blames Ken Fiola, the former head of the Fall River Redevelopment Authority, an agency that Correia cut funding to and forced Fiola out of. He blames Greenberg Traurig, the pricey white-collar law firm he first hired, for not making that first indictment disappear and sinking him deep into debt. He blames federal prosecutors for announcing the second indictment just 11 days before the preliminary election in September. “It’s not fair,” he says. “That’s not a fair election.” And he blames the media for building him up as the savior of his hometown and then chopping him down. The only person Correia doesn’t blame is himself.

As prosecutors prepare to take Correia to trial, for the first time in his career he can’t dictate the rules of the game, make them up as he goes along, or bend them to his will. Yet somehow he seems to believe he should be able to. He can’t for the life of him understand why the Department of Justice hasn’t scheduled a lunch meeting with him to seek a resolution. “They have never sat down with me ever to talk about any of this and see what direction it’s going—‘Hey, we think we have you here, what do you want to do?’” he says. “If I was a middle-aged guy with kids, there’d be willingness on the government’s part and they’d want to sit down with me.”

His naivety is surpassed perhaps only by his uncanny lack of self-awareness. “Nobody can take away the accomplishments I’ve made as mayor,” he says. “If people who say I’m terrible would actually look at what I’ve done, they’d see I’m not terrible.”

As the night ticks on, we land on the subject of what comes next. It’s a tough one, especially when your life is a made-for-TV legal drama that’s unfolding in real time. In terms of earning a living, Correia tells me he’ll be fine. He’s an entrepreneur at heart, he says, with a long runway ahead of him. In fact, he’s already kicking around an idea for a restaurant and another for a line of limited-edition designer T-shirts. When the question comes to leading a fulfilling and satisfying life, though, Correia tells me public office has always been—and always will be—his benchmark of success. If he beats the charges, he assures me, he’ll be back in Fall River and on the campaign trail, bounding once again toward his destiny. “My place is politics,” he tells me, “because I think I can continue to make a difference.”

Then he bites into a steak sandwich and tells me he’s vegan. “I really am,” he insists. “Sometimes.”