Trump has been indicted in Fulton County Superior Court.
So, what is RICO and why is it important in this case?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, was original designed to fight organized crime. It was enacted in 1970 after being signed into law by President Richard Nixon. And, within a few years, Georgia enacted their own version, and of course, as years went by, both state and federal prosecutors saw opportunities to expand the use to other types of cases.
Georgia’s RICO Act was adopted in 1980.
RICO aka Racketeering charges are confusing and complex. Many racketeering prosecutions I have been involved in defending have targeted alleged illegal drug operations, gang related cases and fraud related cases both at the state and federal level. I even had a case where my client was the sole defendant in a RICO case.
So now that Trump and the other 18 defendants are indicted under that Georgia RICO charge, all Fani and her office need to prove is just two felonies and that those felonies occurred in Fulton County. That’s a low threshold for those folks to face that mandatory minimum of five years in prison! Plus, any other crimes (as you see in the indictment) in other counties or states can also be included. I have provided the link to the indictment above as it illustrates how ornate a prosecutor will go to detail all of the “acts of racketeering activity and overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy”.
Predicate acts may not be illegal on their own in Georgia, but under the RICO act, if they were in furtherance of the conspiracy and furtherance of the criminal enterprise, then predicate acts become illegal.
O.C.G.A. §16-14-4 outlines four ways a person can be guilty of violating the Racketeering statute:
- By directly or indirectly acquiring or maintaining any interest in or control of any enterprise, real property or personal property through a pattern of racketeering or the proceeds derived from the activity;
- By directly or indirectly participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity while being employed by, or associated with, the enterprise;
- By conspiring or endeavoring to directly or indirectly acquire or maintain any interest in, or control of, any enterprise, real property or personal property through a pattern of racketeering activity or the proceeds derived from a pattern of racketeering activity; or
- By conspiring or endeavoring to directly or indirectly participate in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity while being employed by, or associated with, the enterprise.
So if they participate in an interrelated pattern of criminal activity motivated by or resulting in monetary gain or economic or physical threat or injury, then a conviction of RICO will occur.
Predicate crimes that fall under the GA RICO statute include drug offenses, homicide, bodily injury, arson, burglary, forgery, theft, prostitution, obscene materials, bribery, witness tampering, perjury, evidence tampering, commercial gambling, distilling liquors and alcoholic beverages, firearm violations, securities violations, credit card fraud, computer crimes, kidnapping, carjacking, and making terroristic threats. That’s quite a long list…..
So, what kind of defenses are there for RICO charges? Obvious ones that come to mind are – that long list of acts in the indictment were not “in furtherance of the conspiracy”. Another defense that can be advanced is the state can’t prove beyond a reasonable dought that two predicate acts were committed. And finally, there was zero pattern of anything.
If you are facing a RICO charge, please feel free to contact us for additional information. Conaway & Strickler, PC is here to help.
Also, please see here for more comments about RICO in the BBC news. Meg Strickler has been quoted about this case in several news outlets in the past month discussing Trump and the Trump 19 indictment in Fulton County.