Anthony Michael Kreis, Georgia State University | –
An Atlanta, Georgia, grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump on Aug. 14, 2023, charging him with racketeering and 12 other felonies related to his alleged attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the state.
Eighteen of Trump’s allies and associates, including former Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, were also indicted for racketeering and other felony charges for their alleged involvement in the scheme.
This marks Trump’s fourth indictment in five months – and the second to come from his efforts to undo the election results that awarded the presidency to Joe Biden. Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, started investigating Trump’s involvement in this alleged scheme, as well as that of Trump’s colleagues, in February 2021.
The Conversation U.S. spoke with Anthony Michael Kreis, a scholar of Georgia’s election laws, to understand the significance of the charges laid out in the 98-page indictment. Here are five key points to understand about the precise nature of the charges and why racketeering is at the center of them.
1. Racketeering is different from conspiracy charges
With a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, charge, Willis presents a narrative that there were a large number of people involved in this case, but that they didn’t necessarily sit down at some point and over cocktails and say, “We are going to engage in this criminal act,” which would be a traditional conspiracy case. She is painting this picture of people winking and nodding and working toward this end goal of overthrowing the election, but without some kind of expressed agreement.
The Georgia RICO law allows her to rope in a lot of people who allegedly were involved with this kind of approach.
To be able to bring conspiracy charges, she would have to have an expressed agreement and a concrete act in furtherance of that conspiracy. And here there really wasn’t quite a plan – it is essentially a loose organization of people who are all up to no good.
2. Georgia – and Willis – have used racketeering charges before
Traditionally in Georgia, RICO has been used to prosecute people engaged in very violent kinds of activity – for street gangs and the Mafia, in particular. It has also been used in other contexts.