Already facing serious federal charges based on his private-sector business dealings, the Mayor of Fall River was arrested for extortion by the FBI.

Who didn't see this coming when the state legalized recreational marijuana in 2016 and placed absolute power with local mayors to grant letters of non-opposition? Without a letter of non-opposition, a pot store can't even apply to the state for a license to sell recreational weed.

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia III started granting letters of non-opposition and donations started flowing into his legal defense fund and his political campaign fund. The letters and the donations were publicly disclosed and were a regular topic of discussion in the local media. Much of this activity was going on after Mayor Correia had already been arrested and arraigned by the U.S. Attorney for financial crimes.

The FBI and the U.S. Attorney read the newspapers, too. They had to take a look at the situation in Fall River and the flood of pot shops being greenlighted by the young mayor they were already trying to put into prison.

Jasiel Correia III is innocent until proven guilty and he has one of the best defense attorneys in the country, Kevin Reddington. Attorney Reddington has declared he will take this case to trial; he will not have his client cut a deal and plead guilty.

Correia made the mistake of surrounding himself with people who are willing to make deals and tell a story to the federal government to save themselves. It will be up to the jury as to who is telling the truth and who is lying. Reddington has already publicly challenged the credibility and character of some potential witnesses.

The indictment is full of conversations and details that damage Correia, but they can have only come from the other co-conspirators in the case.

The federal government labels "Middleman #1" as an "illegal marijuana dealer prior to its legalization in Massachusetts." The indictment also states "Mayoral Aide #1 and Middleman #1 agreed that Middleman #1 would sell marijuana to generate cash to pay Correia for the non-opposition letter" for "MJ Vendor #2" who wanted to sell legal pot in Fall River.

The indictment alleges "MJ Vendor #2" gave "Middleman #1" about 12 to 15 pounds of marijuana as part of the scheme. Apparently, "Middleman #1" continued to operate as an illegal marijuana dealer even after it had become legal in Massachusetts. These are the kind of details Attorney Reddington will zero in on during a trial in front of a jury.

Buckle up, Fall River, this is going to get very personal before it is all over.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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