The indictments handed up by a Georgia grand jury on Monday evening are fundamentally different from the 80 state and federal indictments that Donald Trump was already facing. That’s because Trump isn’t being prosecuted as an individual, or even as one of a handful of people involved in a conspiracy. This time around, Trump is being tried as the head of a criminal organization through Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law. That makes a huge difference when it comes to what prosecutors are trying to prove, what evidence they can use, and how they will deal with the 18 other people indicted in this case.
The federal RICO Act was first passed in 1970. State laws followed swiftly. That’s because RICO gave prosecutors a tremendous boost when going after Mafia, drug cartels, and other criminal organizations. Over time, prosecutors have realized that RICO gives them leverage in cases against everything from inside traders on Wall Street to corrupt health care providers.
RICO is especially designed to go after the criminals at the top of the pyramid, the ones who might otherwise skate by as low-level flunkies took the fall for crimes. In a sense, it’s not Trump who will go to trial in Georgia, it’s Trump Coup, Inc. And there’s a special factor about Georgia’s RICO law that is going to have most of those 19 defendants scrambling to make a deal.
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