Federal Racketeering Charges in Georgia
Federal Racketeering Charges in Georgia
The state of Georgia has its own racketeering law called the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. This law makes it illegal to acquire or maintain control over an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. Racketeering charges in Georgia can be complex and serious, carrying lengthy prison sentences and steep fines. Here’s an overview of how federal racketeering laws apply in Georgia.
What is the Georgia RICO Act?
Georgia’s RICO law was passed in 1980 and is broader than the federal RICO statute. Under the Georgia law, only one person can constitute a criminal enterprise, whereas the federal law requires a pattern of activity by multiple people. Georgia’s law also requires proving just two interrelated crimes towards a common goal, compared to a prolonged pattern under federal law. The range of predicate crimes under Georgia’s law is wider too.
Violating Georgia’s RICO law is a felony punishable by 5-20 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000 or three times the amount gained from the illegal activity, or both. Prosecutors can bring charges under Georgia’s law even if the racketeering activity was unsuccessful.
How Do Federal and State Laws Interact?
Both federal and state racketeering laws can apply to crimes committed in Georgia. State charges are brought by local prosecutors, while federal charges come from the U.S. Department of Justice. A person could face prosecution under both federal and Georgia RICO laws for the same criminal activity.
Some key differences between the federal and Georgia laws:
- Federal law requires racketeering activity across state lines, while Georgia’s law focuses on in-state crimes.
- Georgia’s law has a lower bar for proving a pattern of activity.
- Federal law mandates an enterprise, while an individual can violate Georgia’s law.
- Georgia’s law includes a wider range of predicate offenses.
Federal RICO Charges in Georgia
Here are some recent examples of federal racketeering prosecutions in Georgia:
Young Thug and YSL
In May 2022, rapper Young Thug, Gunna, and other members of YSL Records were indicted on federal RICO charges. Prosecutors allege YSL is a criminal street gang responsible for murders, robberies, drug trafficking and other crimes. The defendants are awaiting trial.
In 2021, 19 members of the Alma Mafia gang in Georgia were convicted of federal racketeering related to drug trafficking, illegal gambling, and other offenses. They were sentenced to over 190 years in prison collectively.
More than 20 members of the Ghostface Gangsters white supremacist gang were indicted on federal RICO charges in 2019. Prosecutors said the gang was responsible for trafficking meth, assault, kidnapping, and attempted murder. Most pleaded guilty.
Notable Uses of Georgia’s RICO Law
Georgia prosecutors have brought state racketeering charges in several high-profile cases:
Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal
In 2015, 12 former Atlanta school officials were convicted under Georgia’s RICO law for orchestrating systemic cheating on standardized tests over several years. Most defendants were sentenced to jail time.
Donald Trump Election Interference
In 2023, Donald Trump and allies like Rudy Giuliani were indicted for soliciting election fraud and other crimes in Georgia’s 2020 election. The charges rely on Georgia’s racketeering law.
Stop Cop City
Dozens of activists protesting the construction of a police training facility in Atlanta were indicted under Georgia’s RICO law in early 2023 related to property damage and other alleged crimes.
Defending Against Racketeering Charges
Fighting racketeering charges in Georgia requires experienced criminal defense attorneys. Possible strategies include:
- Attacking defects in the indictment
- Arguing the “enterprise” doesn’t meet the legal definition
- Disputing that crimes were part of a pattern
- Claiming First Amendment protections
- Seeking to sever defendants into separate trials
- Filing motions to suppress evidence improperly obtained
Given the complexity of racketeering laws and the severity of potential penalties, securing knowledgeable legal counsel is critical for anyone facing charges under federal or Georgia state RICO statutes.