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Georgia's RICO Act explained

An expert sheds light as questions arise after Young Thug's arrest in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Atlanta rapper Young Thug was arrested Monday in Atlanta and is accused of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and participation in criminal street gang activity. 

The recording artist, whose legal name is Jeffery Williams, faces a slew of accusations from Fulton County's district attorney, including that he was allegedly a founder and active leader of the violent Young Slime Life street gang.

11Alive's legal analyst Page Pate answered questions over what a RICO charge is, what the law requires, and Young Thug's RICO case.

What is a RICO charge? 

It is a crime for any person through a pattern of racketeering activity to acquire or maintain any interest in or control of any type of property or business under the Georgia RICO law, according to Pate's law firm website.

The law, at the federal and at the state level, is often used to target organized crime. In the U.S. the federal RICO Act was originally used to indict mob activity. States, like Georgia, have adopted their own version of the law as well.

What is needed to convict someone under RICO? 

The law itself only requires the state to prove that some group of people is committing a pattern of other crimes under the RICO law, according to Pate. 

"That can include simple stuff like theft, or murder, or drugs, or prostitution. As long as you can show a pattern of two or more crimes committed by this group of people that are organized together, you have a potential RICO case," said Pate. 

Pate's website outline's that the state must prove:

  • The defendant committed two or more predicate crimes (listed in C.G.A. § 16-14-3);
  • That the predicate acts were committed as part of an enterprise engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity; and
  • That either:
    1. One or more of the acts that form the pattern resulted in the defendant acquiring or maintaining control of any enterprise, real property, or personal property (including money), or
    2. The defendant was employed by or associated with an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering.

What are the penalties for a RICO charge? 

Pate said that a conviction under Georgia’s RICO statute will result in a 5 to 20-year sentence, a fine, or both.

"The penalties, mandatory minimum of five years in prison, up to 20 years in prison for the RICO charge alone," said Pate. 

A judge can also fine a defendant up to three times the amount of any money obtained by the defendant during the scheme. 

In Georgia, civil remedies can also be imposed. Pate's website explains that a judge can order a defendant to give up any business interest or property gained through a RICO violation. It also lists that the defendants can have restrictions imposed on them, such as a prohibition from engaging in the same type of endeavor as the unlawful business.

The injured parties can file suit against the defendants for three times the actual damages sustained and may seek punitive damages when appropriate. 

"I think specifically with Young Thug, he's looking at the RICO charge, a conspiracy to commit RICO charge, as well as participation in a criminal street gang -- same kind of punishment for that offense," he said. "Five years. Up to 20 years."


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