In an unorthodox turn of events, voters in Fall River re-elected their embattled mayor Tuesday on the same night that he was recalled from duty.
A recall election took place in the southeastern Massachusetts city for Mayor Jasiel Correia, who declined to step down after being charged last year with defrauding investors in an app he developed. He pleaded not guilty in federal court.
Voters were given a two-part ballot, in which they were first asked whether Correia should be recalled and then were asked who among five candidates should become mayor. Correia was recalled, and the received the most votes on the second question.
Also running was City Councilor Joseph Camara; School Committee Member Paul Coogan; Kyle Riley, a school administrator; and Erica Scott-Pacheco, a longtime community activist.
Correia collected more than $360,000 from investors to develop an app that was supposed to help businesses connect with consumers, prosecutors said. He allegedly spent more than $230,000 of the investor funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle and advance his political career.
An investigator said at the time the indictment was handed down in October that Correia had turned investor funds into "his own personal ATM," using the cash for items including jewelry, designer clothing and a Mercedes, as well as to help finance his political campaign and make charitable donations.
After pleading not guilty in U.S. District Court to charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns, Correia predicted he would be vindicated and vowed not to resign, saying it was up to Fall River voters to decide if he should continue serving.
About 4,500 voters signed a petition to force Tuesday's recall vote.
It marked the second time in five years that Fall River residents were deciding on the early ouster of a sitting mayor. William Flanagan was recalled in 2014 by voters angry over trash collection fees and fire department layoffs.
The organizers of the recall say the results were the result of a technicality.
"We felt this could happen. I felt certainly it could happen... frightening prediction and it came true," said school committee member Paul Coogan.
Now 27, Correia, won a seat on the city council in 2013 and in 2015 he was elected mayor, the youngest in the history of the old mill city with about 85,000 residents.
"Everybody’s got the right to vote. I would hope in the next election in November they vote for me.... continue to earn people's votes," said Correia to those who wanted him out of office.
Fall River is perhaps most famous for Lizzie Borden, a resident who was acquitted of killing her father and stepmother with an ax in 1892.