|Among the 18 Trump co-defendants are several lawyers involved in helping Trump try to stay in power after the 2020 election. This includes John Eastman, who—along with Giuliani—urged Georgia state senators to disregard the 2020 election results and appoint pro-Trump electors, and Kenneth Chesebro, who helped Guliani and Eastman push the fake-elector scheme in six states including Georgia.
A handful of Georgia Republican officials and operatives face charges. David Shafer, former chairman of the Republican Party of Georgia, faces eight counts related to his organizing and chairing of the Trump elector meeting in December 2020. Shafer “also served as an elector and stated during the meeting that the electors were meeting and voting purely to preserve their legal remedy in the event a election challenge prevailed in court,” notes The Washington Post. Shawn Still, who is now a Georgia state senator and formerly served as finance chairman for the Republican Party of Georgia, was also charged for his role in facilitating the fake elector meeting.
Former Coffee County elections supervisor Misty Hampton (also known as Misty Martin) is charged with making and disseminating a video that purported to show how voting machines could be warped. “Surveillance footage shows that Hampton was at the elections office on Jan. 7, 2021, when computer forensics contractors working with [Scott] Hall and pro-Trump lawyers copied the county’s election software,” notes the Post.
An activist recorded Hall—who also faces charges—”saying in a telephone call that he had arranged for a plane to ferry people to Coffee County and accompanied them as they ‘went in there and imaged every hard drive of every piece of equipment’ and scanned ballots,” the Post reports. “Hall claimed on the call that they obtained necessary permissions from authorities.”
Illinois pastor Stephen Cliffgard Lee was charged with attempting to influence witnesses, after “traveling to the home of Ruby Freeman, a Fulton County, Georgia, election worker, and speaking to her neighbor,” states the indictment. Lee’s intent was “to knowingly engage in misleading conduct toward Ruby Freeman, by purporting to offer her help, and with intent to influence her testimony in an official proceeding” concerning the election, it alleges.
The indictment links together a lot of related and relatively unrelated conduct from a bunch of disparate people, some acting directly in concert with Trump and his legal team and some much further removed. This is the troubling thing about RICO charges, which are popular among state and federal prosecutors.
RICO lets prosecutors lump together a bunch of people under one prosecution by defining their individual efforts as, together, constituting a racketeering enterprise. Under this umbrella, defendants can face more severe penalties than they otherwise would for individual acts, and conduct that may not be strictly illegal on its own can be defined as evidence of criminal activity.
“Intended as a weapon against organized crime, RICO has instead been turned against labor unions, abortion protesters, and investment firms,” Reason pointed out in a March 1990 piece about federal RICO statutes. The vague contours of the federal RICO statute and its state analogs allow it to be used against all sorts of legal businesses or loosely-related groups of people while making defenses against RICO charges difficult.
Ironically, one of the people now indicted in Georgia on RICO charges—Rudy Giuliani—”made RICO famous in the 1980s,” as L. Gordon Crovitz noted in that 1990 piece. “His RICOing of alleged white-collar criminals completely confounded the purpose, text, and history of the statute. But his cases made headlines.”