West Palm Beach police just announced the indictment and arrest of 18 alleged gang members who were “openly” and “brazenly” performing drug deals on West Palm Beach streets. The gang was also involved in violent criminal activity. Police announced that they will likely use the RICO statute to prosecute the gang.
The operation was conducted over the course of 18 months.
What does 18 months of investigation net you?
RICO is an organized crime statute that allows all members of an organized crime conspiracy to be charged individually for crimes committed by the group. In a RICO investigation, the police must establish that you were part of a criminal enterprise and actively involved in that enterprise. That means establishing that the group is responsible for specific crimes and that individuals within the group helped the group attain their criminal goals.
As part of the prosecution, one 16-year-old is being charged as an adult for allegedly shooting another juvenile who disrespected an elder gang member. He is facing a 30-year sentence for RICO-related infractions. Because the attempted murder helped the gang establish its reputation, the boy can be charged along with the rest of the gang members as a co-conspirator.
While the police allowed the gang to commit crimes for 18 months, they also built a strong case against the gang members that will allow them to leverage the RICO statute to maximize sentences for the individual gang members. That means regardless of how involved an individual gang member was with the criminal enterprise, so long as their involvement can be demonstrated, they can be hit with a 30-year RICO sentence. In other words, the crime of the group becomes the crime of the individual.
While it may seem like an easy way to get criminal organizations off the streets, RICO prosecutions are exceedingly complex. The prosecution must establish more than just affiliation with the group. They need to establish that a crime was committed in furtherance of the group’s ambitions. So establishing individual crimes committed by individual members is still part of a RICO investigation. In this case, 18 months were spent establishing all of these facts and presenting a complete case to the court.
This will leave defense attorneys with less room to maneuver, less room to negotiate a plea, and fewer options during sentencing. Prosecutors are going hard in this case and are seeking maximum penalties against the gang members. Nonetheless, all of the evidence against the gang must have been collected in a legal manner for it to be admissible in court. So, defense attorneys will review the investigation to ensure that due process was afforded to the defendants. Even one mistake could mean that the prosecution cannot establish a substantial connection to the gang and that member walks free.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a criminal conspiracy, the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. can help prepare your defense, reduce your obligation to the state, or get the charges dismissed. Call today to learn more.