April 26, 2021 WASHINGTON, D.C.- The criminal investigation of former president Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham is heating up, with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis issuing an open records demand all audio recordings and other communications between Trump and the office of the Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, reports public interest law professor John Banzhaf, said by Value Walk.
Raffensperger’s office refused to cooperate which might even rise to the level of criminal obstruction of justice sufficient to require the issuance of subpoenas to force some of the Secretary’s staff members to provide testimony under oath and to share other important information, says Banzhaf, whose criminal complaint against Trump triggered the investigation. In any event, it seems her office will begin issuing formal subpoenas to many involved in the matter early in May.
After receiving Banzhaf’s complaint, Willis announced an investigation which includes “but is not limited to, potential violations of Georgia election law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office, and any involvement in violence of threats related to the election’s administration.”
Willis’ decision to investigate whether the former president might be guilty of a criminal conspiracy came as a surprise to many, but not to those familiar with her record.
Banzhaf said that Indeed, she freshly hired one of the country’s leading specialists on state racketeering cases to help conduct the investigation; a further signal that the DA is hoping to bring a RICO case against him.
Although Willis is now very acquainted with Georgia’s far-reaching RICO statute as a result of winning an unusual RICO case against some teachers who had cheated, she has nevertheless engaged the lawyer who wrote the book on state RICO prosecutions – “RICO State by State: A Guide to Litigation Under the State Racketeering Statutes” – to help her carry out a wide-ranging investigation which she had earlier said would include possible racketeering activity.
Prof. Banzhaf, who is acquainted with the federal RICO statute since he shaped the memo which led to the federal government’s successful RICO prosecution against the major tobacco companies, points out that the Georgia RICO statute is even more powerful and far-reaching than the federal one.
Among other things, it defines racketeering more broadly than the federal law does, takes less to prove a pattern of racketeering activity, and does not always require the existence of an enterprise – especially an illegal or criminal enterprise – to constitute racketeering. For example, the “enterprise” used in the RICO teacher-cheating case was a school.
Also, notes Banzhaf, although RICO requires at least two independent illegal racketeering activities – “predicate acts” – to prove a pattern of corruption by Trump and his alleged co-conspirators, making false statements such as Trump and some of his allies are alleged to have made would satisfy Georgia’s RICO law.
Racketeering, which is a felony in Georgia, can carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, a hefty fine, and disgorgements of ill-gotten gains. Most felons in Georgia convicted of racketeering offenses do serve time in prison, Banzhaf notes.
This RICO probe is probably the most serious legal threat Trump faces now that he no longer enjoys any protection as president, notes Banzhaf.
It is a very far-ranging statute that permits wide disclosure and has a very heavy penalty.
It is also in the hands of a prosecutor who is a Democrat in a heavily Democratic county. Therefore, most members of a grand jury, and any criminal trial juries in this county, are likely to be very unfriendly to Trump, Banzhaf suggests.