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Tuesday, August 15, 2023


 James C. McKinley Jr. at NYT:
At the heart of the indictment against Mr. Trump and his allies in Georgia are racketeering charges under the state Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

Like the federal law on which it is based, the state RICO law was originally designed to dismantle organized crime groups, but over the years it has come to be used to prosecute other crimes, from white collar Ponzi and embezzlement schemes to public corruption cases.

It’s a powerful law enforcement tool. The Georgia RICO statute allows prosecutors to bundle together what may seem to be unrelated crimes committed by a host of different people if those crimes are perceived to be in support of a common objective.

“It allows a prosecutor to go after the head of an organization, loosely defined, without having to prove that that head directly engaged in a conspiracy or any acts that violated state law,” Michael Mears, a law professor at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta. “If you are a prosecutor, it’s a gold mine. If you are a defense attorney, it’s a nightmare.”

Prosecutors need only show “a pattern of racketeering activity,” which means crimes that all were used to further the objectives of a corrupt enterprise. And the bar is fairly low. The Georgia courts have concluded that a pattern consists of at least two acts of racketeering activity within a four-year period in furtherance of one or more schemes that have the same or similar intent.