The RICO laws — Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations — were developed to prosecute those who induced others to commit crimes. The RICO statute has been used against violent groups in the past, most notably the group led by “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman who was convicted of plotting to blow up both the United Nations and the George Washington Bridge. There is dialogue going on at the Department of Justice about whether to apply RICO to those charged with various crimes committed in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. Reuters:

The siege by supporters of former President Donald Trump left five dead including a police officer. It is not yet clear if cases arising from it meet “statutory elements” necessary for a RICO charge, the former federal official said.

“This is something that is being mulled over in the halls of DOJ,” the official added, using the department’s initials.

President Joe Biden’s administration has warned that domestic extremism is a growing threat following the Capitol rampage, a sharp departure from the way Trump regarded extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. In a September pre-election debate with Biden, Trump told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

Justice Department spokeswoman Kristina Mastropasqua declined to comment about the potential use of the RICO statute beyond pointing to prior statements by the senior federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia, Michael Sherwin, that he would charge people based on what the evidence showed.

Obstructing an official government proceeding is considered a racketeering activity. This is an interesting way to approach this legally. To successfully prosecute a RICO case, prosecutors must show a pattern of related racketeering crimes and a threat of continuing criminal conduct. Since some of the same people who were at Charlottesville ended up in Washington, D.C. January 6, this could work out. This will be an interesting story to follow.

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  1. I can see pros and cons to using RICO.

    Pro…clearly Trump and the ringleaders wanted to keep their rears out of jail, and used weasel words to get others to commit crimes on their behalf. I’m utterly disgusted that Trump could lie to a confused, deranged supporter and get off scot free. The supporter knew they were doing wrong, but so did Trump and his enablers.

    Con…the first thing a court is going to ask is how we define the line between culpable and not when people conduct acts of violence based on political issues. We can remember that the mass shooting of Republicans was conducted by a Bernie supporter who blamed Republicans for Bernie’s loss, or whatever. There’s no argument that Bernie has never advocated violence, and never would, and that no rational person would feel he wanted that. But that creates two cases, one where it feels evident that violence was opposed and one where it feels violence was desired. How do we ever define exactly where between those two cases the criminality lay?

    To be clear, I don’t support or oppose RICO in this case…I’m not a lawyer, and want to hear what lawyers like Harris, Warren or Porter have to say. I’ll throw in Swalwell too, for diversity and because he’s adorable.

    • I think that you are drawing a false equivalence between the ‘Bernie supporter’ and these morons. At no stage, EVER, has the left, and Bernie , in particular, advocated violence and ‘taking out’ their opposition. That guy acted alone. and was clearly deluded, and has been widely condemned.

      The Trumpists, on the other hand acted under his specific instructions after YEARS of Trump saying what great people they are and that he ‘loved them’, all to help further promulgate his ‘Great Lie’ about the election ‘being stolen’.

      There is no ‘both sides’ here.

      • I tried to be clear that I was citing the two cases as specifically NOT equivalent, but two cases where violence was done on behalf of a public figure.

        My point was that we can pretty easily say that Bernie was not culpable in one case, while Trump is in the other. That’s step one in establishing a legal philosophy. Now we have to define exactly why Trump,is culpable, and how we would identify the line that exists somewhere between the two cases. What is the precise thing that makes it a crime?

        One “precise” thing has already been established by the Supreme Court in 1807, that being that insurrection requires a specific incident of violence or threatened violence that interferes with the process of government. So that’s one piece of evidence against Trumpers…they all knew what was happening in the Capitol and they tried to force ably stop it.

        At any rate, I’m sorry if I offended, but my post was about legal nuance, not making equivalencies. I’m just bringing up examples and asking how we establish legal standards and precedent.

    • RICO has to involve more than one unbalanced person committing a crime such as the shooting of congresspeople at a softball game. That was a lone person deciding on his own to do that for his own unbalanced reasons. The attacks on the Capitol involved groups of people who were likely working together and coordinating ahead of time. The softball game shooter didn’t coordinate with anyone. A really poor negative example, like comparing a rape to shoplifting. You need a stronger “con.”

    • Rico involved people coordinating to commit a crime which didn’t happen in the case of the lone persons committing the congressional softball game shooting. That was a loner crime. You need a better “con” example. This is like comparing a rape to a shoplifting.

  2. Rory…I am disgusted also! My take is to throw every God damned thing at them…rico or whatever! Just so disgusted about the way things are Shaping up against trump! He is a murderer! Do you think he watched the exit funeral of the capital police officer? Not a chance in hell he did. I watched it! This poor guy was doing his job and then the trumpers arrived in the scene! My hope is that every single person responsible for this is thrown in prison! Just a bunch of yahoos!

  3. Given the millions in America( poor people, brown & black & white), who’ve been criminalized by the indefensible cannabis laws, sure, let’s let the muther who’s killed 500,000 walk. Law? U must be phucking kidding me. U must mean the rules made by the rich & only meant for us poor folk.

  4. There is ample constitutional justification, but they should be charged under whatever appropriate paws would result in the harshest punishments.


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