The Justice Department is considering using RICO charges, which designed to combat organized crime, against some of the members of the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6, Reuters reports.
The DOJ has discussed using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which allows prosecutors to extend charges to people involved in organized crime, and carries up to 20 years in prison.
It’s unclear if the cases brought by the DOJ meet the “statutory elements” needed to pursue RICO charges, one federal official told the outlet. “This is something that is being mulled over in the halls of DOJ.”
The DOJ did not comment on the report but noted the US Attorney Michael Sherwin said he would charge people based on what the evidence showed and has publicly said the DOJ is considering charges for sedition.
Could DOJ use RICO?
RICO cases, which are typically complex and take years to develop, are intended to help convict top Mafia leaders who ordered others to commit crimes.
“RICO was designed to address the Godfather - the person who doesn’t get their hands bloody,” attorney Jeffrey Grell told Reuters. “You would really only use RICO to go after the kingpins or the leaders.”
Incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin has pushed for the DOJ to consider RICO charges.
“There are multiple statutes currently available for federal prosecutors to use to hold the perpetrators behind the Jan. 6 attack accountable, including RICO, and prosecutors should appropriately evaluate potential charges,” a spokesperson said.
Proud Boys, Oath Keepers could face steep charges:
Members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who were involved in the riot face a charge of obstructing an official government proceeding, which is considered a “racketeering activity.”
If prosecutors try to bring a RICO case, they would have to show that the groups qualify as a “criminal enterprise.”
“Whatever theory they’re pursuing requires looking at the group and kind of zooming out so they can capture a pattern of racketeering activity more than just what happened on that day,” attorney Kamal Ghali told the outlet.