Georgia DA May Bring RICO Charges Against Trump – CNN; Cable News Report of New Prediction Actually Old News – Complainant
RICO Charges Against Donald Trump
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 20, 2023) – CNN has just reported that “Atlanta-area prosecutors are considering bringing racketeering and conspiracy charges in connection with Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.”
It cites a “large volume of substantial evidence related to a possible conspiracy from inside and outside the state” which “underscores the belief that the push to help Trump was not just a grassroots effort that originated inside the state.”
But the public interest law professor whose formal legal complaint triggered the current criminal investigation in Georgia by Fulton County DA Fani Willis reported this almost two years ago. At that time public interest law professor published the following to explain his prediction:
Willis’ decision to investigate whether the former president might be guilty of a criminal conspiracy came as a surprise to many, but not to those familiar with her record. Indeed, she recently hired one of the country’s leading experts on state racketeering cases to help conduct the investigation; a further signal that the DA in hoping to bring a RICO case against him, says Banzhaf.
Although Willis is already very familiar with Georgia’s far reaching RICO statute as a result of winning an unusual RICO case against some teachers who had cheated, she has nevertheless engaged the lawyer who literally wrote the book on state RICO prosecutions – “RICO State by State: A Guide to Litigation Under the State Racketeering Statutes” – to help her carry out a wide ranging investigation which she had earlier said would include possible racketeering activity.
Georgia’s RICO Statute
Prof. Banzhaf, who is familiar with the federal RICO statute since he produced the memo which led to the federal government’s successful RICO prosecution against the major tobacco companies, points out that the Georgia RICO statute is even more powerful and far reaching than the federal one.
Among other things, it defines racketeering more broadly than the federal law does, takes less to prove a pattern of racketeering activity, and does not always require the existence of an enterprise – especially an illegal or criminal enterprise – to constitute racketeering. For example, the “enterprise” used in the RICO teacher-cheating case was a school.
Also, notes Banzhaf, although RICO requires at least two independent illegal racketeering activities – “predicate acts” – to prove a pattern of corruption by Trump and his alleged co-conspirators, making false statements such as Trump and some of his allies are alleged to have made would satisfy Georgia’s RICO law.
Racketeering, which is a felony in Georgia, can carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, a hefty fine, and disgorgements of ill-gotten gains. Most felons in Georgia convicted of racketeering offenses do serve time in prison, Banzhaf notes.
This RICO probe is probably the most serious legal threat Trump faces now that he no longer enjoys any protection as president, notes Banzhaf. It is a very far ranging statute which permits wide disclosure and has a very heavy penalty.