When Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed racketeering and conspiracy charges against Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants in their efforts to reverse the former president’s defeat in the 2020 Georgia election, she resorted to a legal tool that she had relied on before – in prosecuting corrupt school teachers and violent street gangs.
Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law allowed Willis to indict Trump and his allies for alleged involvement in a large-scale conspiracy to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. In the historic 41-count indictment, they were accused of orchestrating a “criminal enterprise” to help Trump retain his power.
Shortly after her office began investigating possible illegal interference in Georgia’s 2020 election, Willis contacted John Floyd, who is considered one of the country’s leading RICO experts and who literally wrote the book on Georgia’s crime laws. Floyd was made the special assistant district attorney to help with any racketeering cases her office would pursue.
“If I were charged with a RICO violation, the last person I would want to see helping the prosecutor, maybe in the whole world, would be John Floyd,” said Eric Segall, Kathy & Lawrence Ashe Professor of Law at Georgia State University Salon. Floyd, Segall continued, could be considered “a sort of Michael Jordan of RICO.”
Throughout his legal career, Floyd has specialized in prosecuting public corruption and gang crime.
In 2007, Floyd was among the first attorneys to file suit against pharmaceutical company Allergan for promoting its widely used injectable drug, Botox, for illicit purposes. according to the Constitution of the Atlanta Journal. This eventually led to the company admitting its guilt and paying out $600 million in compensation.
He was a member of the law enforcement teams that obtained guilty verdicts on two significant cases on RICO charges. One involved former DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who was found guilty of orchestrating the assassination of his political rival Derwin Brown. The other case involved several educators and administrators involved in an Atlanta public school cheating scandal.
Fani Willis’ indictment alleges that what Trump did in Georgia “also did.” [in] other places,” said Eric Segall. “It’s powerful, and it’s only possible thanks to RICO.”
A key advantage RICO offers to a prosecutor, Segall said, is that it allows for the inclusion of suspected crimes from other jurisdictions. For example, the Georgia vs. Trump and his allies case includes actions carried out in Pennsylvania that Willis alleges were part of the same criminal plot carried out in Georgia. According to the Fulton County indictment, Trump and his associates conducted a coordinated action aimed at contesting election results in numerous different states and spreading baseless allegations of voter fraud.
Her actions were listed in the indictment as “acts of extortion and apparent acts of furthering the conspiracy.”
“The Pennsylvania portion of the indictment is so poignant,” Segall said, for providing evidence that Trump’s team “did basically the same thing in at least two different places.” Without the RICO statute, it would not be possible to allow lawsuits in Pennsylvania to be part of the evidence in the Georgia trial, he added.
Essentially, Segall said, the indictment alleges that what Trump did in Georgia, “he did too.” [in] other places. That is powerful, and that is only possible thanks to RICO.”
While RICO had its origins in mob law enforcement, it has been used in all types of organizational cases for decades now, Caren Myers told Morrison, a former assistant US attorney in New York and associate professor of law at Georgia State University Salon. What is “obviously shocking” about this use of RICO, “is that we have never indicted a former president,” she added.
The state RICO statute was created in 1970 as a tool to combat organized crime, giving prosecutors the ability to target those in positions of power within criminal organizations rather than just focusing on junior employees who committed specific crimes.
But the intention of the law was never limited to organized crime. The RICO laws allow prosecutors to indict multiple individuals who commit different crimes while working towards a common goal.
“The RICO laws were enacted to prosecute organized crime figures” in circumstances where “it was often difficult to prove their direct involvement in the commission of crimes,” the former San Francisco attorney general said , Lateef Gray, opposite drawing room. According to RICO’s statutes, prosecutors are “capable of indicting multiple defendants at once and presenting a wide range of evidence.”
RICO charges generally come with a significant potential penalty that may be in addition to the penalty for the underlying crimes. In Georgia, a conviction for a felony under RICO carries a prison sentence of between five and 20 years.
Throughout his career, John Floyd has represented on both sides of RICO cases, representing plaintiffs and defendants in high-risk civil litigation related to the racketeering laws. His experience spans decades and he has honed Georgian law through several notable cases. according to ABC News.
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In 1996, when Georgia state investigator Richard Hyde was considering how to prosecute fraud at the Medical College of Georgia, he reached out to Floyd after learning of his racketeering fraud practices, ABC News reported . Hyde ultimately owed Floyd his help in successfully convicting two faculty members accused by prosecutors of embezzling $10 million in research funds.
“If you’re going to impeach the president, you want the best possible people on your team. I think John Floyd definitely fits the bill,” Morrison said.
She also added that RICO is an appropriate law to address alleged criminal conduct related to the extensive effort by Trump and his allies to overturn the Georgia election results.
“Whether it was getting the Legislature to get back into session, whether it was getting information from the Coffee County voting machines, whether it was getting Brad Raffensperger on the phone, there were all these different things that they Tried.” “Anything to get the same result,” Morrison said.
No one disputes, however, that this particular application of the RICO laws is historic and unprecedented. Willis accuses the President of the United States of being a crook, Segall said. “If he’s found guilty, that’s different than being guilty of forgery or anything like that,” Segall said. “A former president is accused of being part of a criminal enterprise. This is symbolically very important.”
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