Updated Aug 14, 2023, 11:49pm EDT
politicsNorth America

What Trump’s racketeering charge in Georgia mean for his case

Sheriff's vehicles and security barriers are seen around the Fulton County Courthouse.
REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

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The News

Former U.S. President Donald Trump is now facing his fourth criminal indictment, as prosecutors in Georgia accused him of participating in a criminal scheme to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in 2020.

The most serious of the 39 charges against Trump is the violation of Georgia’s RICO Act, a racketeering law that was enacted in 1980 to go after mobs and gangs.

We’ve compiled expert analysis about the racketeering charge and what it means for the case against Trump.

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  • A RICO charge allows prosecutors to sweep up anyone who participated in a “criminal enterprise” by committing at least two underlying crimes — even if they were out of state and beyond jurisdiction, said Danny Porter, the former district attorney in nearby Gwinnett County. One disadvantage: “They are really complex,” given that the cases involve multiple defendants with different lawyers. “So everything moves slowly,” Porter told Semafor.
  • The Georgia RICO statute is more open-ended than the federal statute it was modeled after, and is meant to help prosecutors convict leaders of criminal organizations to the crimes their underlings may have directly committed. District Attorney Fani Willis ”has been very creative and effective at using the RICO statute compared to any prosecutor anywhere,” Emory University law professor Morgan Cloud told The Wall Street Journal. This is Willis’ 11th RICO indictment.
  • In one of the most famous criminal cases in Atlanta history, Willis used RICO to prosecute a group of public school teachers and administrators accused of scheming to inflate their students’ test scores. “You don’t, under RICO, have to have a formal, sit-down dinner meeting where you eat spaghetti. But what you do have to do is all be doing the same thing for the same purpose,” Willis said during the trial. She’s also faced criticism that she used RICO charges too aggressively, The New Yorker reported.
  • Fulton County prosecutors have records connecting Trump’s legal team to the breach of the voting system in rural Coffee County, Ga. in January 2021, CNN reported. “This is damning stuff and the kind of evidence built for Georgia RICO,” Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis tweeted. “This shows a pattern of unlawful activity all over the state.”

— Jordan Weissmann contributed to this report.