The latest Trump indictment is out, and it’s a blockbuster. Let’s start with the numbers, shall we? A grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, returned an indictment that has:
- 19 defendants, including the former president of the United States and 6 lawyers in his orbit
- 41 criminal counts across all defendants
- 13 criminal counts against the former president himself
- 8 types of manners and methods used to further a criminal enterprise
- 161 overt acts of racketeering activity
Many of the defendants are already familiar. Rudy Guiliani, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, and Sidney Powell are all attorneys who are likely some of the unindicted co-conspirators in the federal January 6 case. Others are people whose names have surfaced repeatedly during the various 2020 election investigations, such as Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, and attorney Ken Chesebro, who wrote the first memo suggesting the fake elector scheme. Others, like fake electors Shawn Still and David Shafer, aren’t household names.
RICO, briefly explained
The 161 overt acts in the indictment form the basis for Count 1, violating Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. All 19 defendants are charged with violating that law, and you can think of it as an umbrella charge that scoops up much of the misconduct.
If you’ve ever watched a mob movie set after 1970, when the law was first passed, you’ve probably heard of the federal RICO Act. It was designed to charge people for acting in concert with one another in furtherance of a criminal act. This was a big breakthrough because in sprawling criminal enterprises, people at the top — gang leaders, mob capos, etc. — could insulate themselves from criminal liability by having other people do their dirty work. But the advent of RICO meant that if you helped mastermind the heist but didn’t do the burglary, for example, you could still be held liable. The law isn’t just used against the Mafia but has also formed the basis for prosecuting people who run Ponzi schemes and gangs, among other things. [Continue reading…]