A recent Ohio racketeering and conspiracy case may shed light on Fani Willis’ Trump prosecution strategy

A recent Ohio racketeering and conspiracy case may shed light on Fani Willis’ Trump prosecution strategy
'Sold the Statehouse': Jury convicts 2 well-known Ohio Republicans in $60 million racketeering case (screenshot)

Monday night, August 14 brought yet another Donald Trump legal bombshell when Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis announced that a grand jury had indicted Trump and 18 of his allies on criminal charges in connection with their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

This is the fourth criminal indictment Trump is facing; never before in the United States' 247-year history as a democratic republic has a former president faced this many legal problems. But Willis' case differs from the three other Trump indictments because of its use of RICO laws and the fact that it names so many of Trump's allies as part of an alleged conspiracy.

RICO is short for "racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations," and RICO laws have typically been used to prosecute mob bosses and drug lords — in other words, criminal organizations rather small-time criminals. RICO laws were not designed for a criminal who, for example, breaks into someone's house, robs a liquor store or mugs someone waiting on a bus stop. And Willis alleges that Trump and his allies conspired to steal the 2020 presidential election from now-President Joe Biden in Georgia despite overwhelming proof that Trump lost the state.

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Special counsel Jack Smith, in a federal case for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), also alleges that Trump committed criminal acts by trying to stay in office even though he clearly lost the election. But Smith, unlike Willis, isn't using RICO laws in his case.

In an article published by USA Today on August 18, journalist Jessie Balmert lays out some reasons why an Ohio-related federal RICO case offers important insights on Willis' prosecution.

"Racketeering conspiracy or RICO was the federal charge leveled against ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and his allies in the Statehouse's largest corruption scandal: a $60 million pay-to-play scheme involving a Fortune 500 company," Balmert explains. "Householder was recently sentenced to the maximum: 20 years in prison. Co-defendant Matt Borges, who previously led the Ohio Republican Party, was sentenced to five years in prison."

Balmert adds, "Using RICO to prosecute public corruption is still relatively rare, so the Ohio case offers a window into what Trump and his allies could face in Georgia."

READ MORE: 'They're laughing now': 'Thrilled' Giuliani-jailed mobsters celebrate former prosecutor's RICO indictment

Many pundits have used the words "ambitious" and "expansive" to describe Willis' case against Trump and his allies. Ironically, one of those allies is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who used RICO laws aggressively when he was a federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York.

Balmert emphasizes that Willis has her work cut out for her. The Fulton County DA, under RICO laws, will have to prove to jurors that Trump and other defendants coordinated a full-fledged criminal conspiracy in their efforts to steal the 2020 election from Biden.

"RICO cases can be hard to prosecute because of their complexity, novelty and the number of co-defendants involved," Balmert notes. "They also take time: Householder and his allies were arrested in July 2020 but the case didn't go to trial until January 2023."

READ MORE: Trump cancels 'news conference' promising 'irrefutable & overwhelming evidence of election fraud'

USA Today's full report is available at this link (subscription required).

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