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.