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RICO: The Crime of Being a Criminal Parts III and IV RICO: The Crime of Being a Criminal Parts III and IV

Gerard E. Lynch Columbia Law School, [emailprotected]

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Recommended Citation Recommended Citation Gerard E. Lynch, RICO: The Crime of Being a Criminal Parts III and IV, 87 COLUM. L. REV. 920 (1987). Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/132

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Gerard E. Lynch**


In the first portion of this study, I we saw that the Supreme Court inits 1981 Turkette decision 2 endorsed what was already the consensusview of the courts of appeals that a group of individuals associated infact to pursue entirely illegitimate purposes could constitute a RICOenterprise.3 Prosecutions of such associations have quickly become theleading use of the statute. It can be reliably estimated that more thanforty percent of the reported appellate cases involving RICO indict-ments concern prosecutions in which the alleged enterprise was suchan illicit association.4 When the cases are classified by the nature of thepredicate criminal acts rather than of the alleged enterprise, roughlythe same figure appears: about forty percent of the cases involve alle-gations of concerted criminal activity by more-or-less organized crimi-nal groups, with the rest divided among the various types of perversionof legitimate institutions discussed in the preceding sections.5 Thesefigures demonstrate that the principal use of RICO has not been to dealwith the distinctive evil of infiltration by the mob into legitimate enter-prises, but rather to add an additional weapon to prosecutors' efforts toattack organized criminal groups themselves for their primary illegalactivities.

The illicit association cases present a broad spectrum of illegal ac-tivities. In many of the cases, the illicit activities charged as predicateacts involve repeated instances of the same general type of criminalconduct. The large number of RICO narcotics prosecutions typify thiskind of case, although similar examples involving gambling and prosti-tution activity can be cited. 6 Other cases involve arson, extortion, and

* These are the second two parts of a four part Article.** Professor of Law, Columbia University. B.A. 1972, J.D. 1975, Columbia

University.1. See Lynch, RICO: The Crime of Being a Criminal 1, 87 Colum. L. Rev. 661 at

notes 180-99 and accompanying text (1987).2. United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981).3. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968 (1982).4. See Lynch, supra note 1, at note 303.5. Id. at 735 (Table 1).6. More than 10% of the 236 RICO indictments in our sample of appellate cases

involved illicit enterprises in which the predominant racketeering activity consisted ofnarcotics violations. Gambling cases accounted for 15 of the indictments (6.4%), andthere were also a handful of prostitution cases. Altogether, these classic examples oforganized provision of illegal services and products by criminal associations accountedfor nearly 20% of all RICO indictments in the sample. Id.


theft or fencing schemes. 7

The use of RICO in many of these cases appears indistinguishablefrom the use of ordinary conspiracy law. Although most of the RICOcases seem to involve particularly large or lucrative conspiracies,8 someof them are strikingly ordinary criminal conspiracies. 9 Why have prose-cutors invoked RICO so frequently? The cases in this area are so di-verse that no single answer is possible. In some instances, particularlyin simple cases involving schemes limited to one particular sort ofcrime, the answers parallel those we have already seen in the politicalcorruption, white collar, and labor racketeering areas. 10

A. Jurisdictional Use of RICO

In theory, RICO can serve as a device to obtain federal jurisdictionto prosecute common-law crimes against persons or property thatwould normally be within the province of local law enforcement. Apurse snatcher or mugger may seem the quintessential example of thesort of street criminal who is the responsibility of the local police forceand the local district attorney to apprehend and prosecute. If two orthree muggers, however, form a loosely knit gang and can be shown tohave cooperated in two or more such robberies they have become-assuming that some effect on interstate commerce can be fantasized-aRICO enterprise, and can be prosecuted federally." Given the higherpublic concern about street crime than about the less immediatelythreatening sorts of activity that compose the principal objects of fed-eral law enforcement efforts, an ambitious United States Attorneymight well want to grab a piece of this kind of crime-fighting action byusing RICO to stake out a federal presence in the war on streetrobbery.

The use of RICO purely as ajurisdictional device to supplement orpreempt local law enforcement efforts against ordinary street crime hasso far been mostly a theoretical fear. The Department of Justice'sRICO Guidelines emphasize the importance of avoiding encroach-ments on local law enforcement, 12 and specifically disapprove RICO

7. Id.8. See, e.g., United States v. Schell, 775 F.2d 559 (4th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 106

S. Ct. 1478 (1986); United States v. Thomas, 757 F.2d 1359 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 106S. Ct. 66 (1985); United States v. Phillips, 664 F.2d 971 (5th Cir. 1981), cert. denied,457 U.S. 1136 (1982).

9. For examples of relatively small-scale vice rings indicted under RICO, seeUnited States v. Tunnell, 667 F.2d 1182 (5th Cir. 1982) (prostitution); United States v.Colacurcio, 659 F.2d 684 (5th Cir. 1981) (gambling), cert. denied, 455 U.S. 1002(1982).

10. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 309-425.11. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961(1)(A), 1961(5), 1962(c) (1982).12. See, e.g., United States Dep't of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Manual § 9-110.200

(1984) ("One purpose of these guidelines is to reemphasize the principle that the pri-mary responsibility for enforcing state laws rests with the state concerned.")

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indictments "where the predicate acts consist solely and only of stateoffenses" except in certain instances.1 3 This might be dismissed asmere lip-service to the values of federalism and, in fact, the exceptionsare sufficiently amorphous to provide little barrier to prosecutions ofentirely local criminal activity. Nevertheless, pure cases of disregardfor these principles are rare. 14

Still, the jurisdictional use of RICO is not without significance.Even in cases that present only one straightforward conspiracy involv-ing a single type of criminal activity, jurisdiction and venue barriersmay prevent prosecutors from presenting all the evidence relating tothe single conspiracy in the same trial. In United States v. Winter,15 forexample, federal investigators had developed evidence of a wide-rang-

13. Id. at § 9-110.330. Needless to say, the exceptions are broadly drafted and sub-ject to considerable flexibility of interpretation. For example, "[c]ases where local lawenforcement officials are unlikely to investigate and prosecute otherwise meritoriouscases in which the federal government has significant interest," id. at § 9-110.330(A)are, as far as I can tell, in the eye of the beholder. The guidelines, in any event, are notjudicially enforceable. See Lynch, supra note 1, at note 250.

14. One case in which jurisdictional use of RICO seems to have occurred is UnitedStates v. Licavoli, 725 F.2d 1040 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1252 (1984). In Lica-voli, the only predicate acts charged against two key defendants were a conspiracy tomurder a rival gang leader and the murder of that same individual. Thus, as to thosedefendants, the entire basis of the RICO charge was a single scheme to commit mur-der-an act that would not, absent RICO, be within federal jurisdiction. The defend-ants, however, had already been acquitted in a state prosecution for the same conspiracyand murder. The use of RICO to create federal jurisdiction was thus necessary to makeuse of the "dual sovereignty" exception to the double jeopardy principle. Abbate v.United States, 359 U.S. 187 (1959); Bartkus v. Illinois, 359 U.S. 121 (1959). Assumingdefendants' guilt, zeal to obtain a conviction in these circ*mstances is certainly under-standable, but the use of RICO to avoid jurisdictional barriers to what is already some-thing of an evasion of constitutional requirements could certainly be considered anabuse of the statute.

A case that might appear to exemplify the pure use of RICO as a jurisdictionaldevice in the case of ordinary blue-collar crime is United States v. Aleman, 609 F.2d 298(7th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 946 (1980). In Aleman, two defendants were triedfor violating §§ 1962(c) and (d) of RICO by engaging in three robberies of homes inIllinois and Indiana. Although the federal court had jurisdiction over the Indiana of-fense because its proceeds were transported across state lines, 18 U.S.C. § 2314 (1982),and federal firearms charges were available against at least one of the defendants, 609F.2d at 301, the Illinois robberies were strictly local crimes. RICO seems to have beenused largely so that the Illinois robberies could be prosecuted by the United States At-torney rather than by Illinois authorities.

The case illustrates, however, the number of considerations that may go into thedecision to prosecute a case under RICO. While the Illinois robberies, absent RICO,could only have been tried in state court, and the Indiana robbery could also have beenprosecuted in the courts of that state, no court anywhere, without the use of RICO,could have tried all three offenses under the same indictment. Use of the federal forumprovided by RICO enabled the three robberies to be tried together, to the considerableadvantage of the prosecution. Aleman thus may be a case not so much ofjurisdictionalclaim-jumping, but of the use of RICO as a trans-jurisdictional joinder device. See infranotes 15-16 and accompanying text.

15. 663 F.2d 1120 (1st Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1011 (1983).

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ing scheme to fix horse races at various race tracks. Although the casewas prosecuted in Massachusetts, the scheme affected racing in NewHampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Such multi-state activity may be difficult to prosecute efficiently under conventionaldoctrines of criminal law and procedure. Substantive criminal acts maybe committed in a variety of jurisdictions, making it impossible to joinall related transactions in the same venue. While a conspiracy encom-passing the entire scheme may be prosecuted in any district where anyovert act was committed, 16 unless the substantive offenses can be pros-ecuted in the same district, the federal conspiracy statute may not pro-vide penalties commensurate with the scope of the criminal conductinvolved. 17 RICO may function, in cases like Winter, as a jurisdictionaldevice to prosecute trans-jurisdictional schemes-or, in effect, as an ag-gravated conspiracy statute. 18

Congressional expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction makes itpossible for federal law enforcement agencies to reach most of theforms of organized criminal conduct that have been attacked usingRICO, under certain circ*mstances. Theft,' 9 arson,20 extortion,21

prostitution,22 gambling,23 and of course narcotics trafficking,24 are allcovered by federal statutes. While the use of RICO to assert jurisdic-tion over criminal conduct that has not yet been made subject to federalintervention could be seen as abusive, as in the area of political corrup-tion,2 5 the frequent resort by Congress to artificial jurisdictional de-vices to secure federal jurisdiction often makes the dividing linebetween federal and state jurisdiction arbitrary. As to any individual

16. 18 U.S.C. § 3237 (1982). SeeJohnson, The Unnecessary Crime of Conspiracy,61 Calif. L. Rev. 1137, 1175-80 (1973).

17. See 18 U.S.C. § 371 (1982) (maximum sentence of five years plus $10,000 finefor conspiracy).

18. In this particular instance, RICO may not have been indispensable to obtainingproper venue for enough criminal charges to prosecute the scheme adequately. Theindictment included 42 counts of sports bribery and Travel Act violations, 18 U.S.C.§§ 224, 1952 (1982), so that presumably a single conspiracy count and the variousTravel Act offenses would permit the charging of conduct occurring outside of Massa-chusetts. Nevertheless, the availability of provable Travel Act violations is essentiallyfortuitous; RICO will sometimes be the only way of avoiding fragmented prosecution offar-flung criminal activities. See, e.g., United States v. Bagaric, 706 F.2d 42 (2d Cir.),cert. denied, 460 U.S. 840 (1983).

19. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 2314 (1982) (interstate transportation of stolen propertyvalued in excess of $5,000).

20. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 844(i) (1982) (destruction by fire or explosion of buildingor property used "in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce").

21. See 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (1982) (extortion or robbery affecting interstatecommerce).

22. See 18 U.S.C. § 2421 (1982) (transportation of women in interstate or foreigncommerce for purposes of prostitution).

23. See 18 U.S.C. 99 224, 1955 (1982).24. See 21 U.S.C. § 801-970 (1982).25. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 336-41 and accompanying text.

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criminal act, this patchwork jurisdiction might not matter. Unlike thecase of local governmental corruption, 26 there is no systemic reason tothink that the absence of federal jurisdiction to prosecute an act ofgambling or arson will lead to failure to prosecute the crime.27 Where,however, the criminal conduct is part of a pattern of criminal transac-tions conducted by an organized criminal conspiracy, the fragmentedpattern of jurisdiction may prevent any court from having jurisdictionover enough of the case to permit unified prosecution of the entire op-eration in a manner that makes significant penalties available. RICOhas been of genuine value in permitting such prosecutions. 28

B. RICO as a Penalty Enhancer

In some cases, the impetus for the use of RICO in criminal enter-prise cases appears to be, as in the white collar and labor cases, 29 itsextreme, mandatory and procedurally simple financial penalties. Atleast some of the large number of narcotics cases in which RICO countsare included can probably be accounted for on this basis.30 In mostnarcotics cases, of course, there is no need for RICO to enhance theincarceration penalties available; federal narcotics offenses carry poten-tially drastic sentences. s 1 Nor do narcotics offenses present the juris-diction and venue barriers to unified prosecution discussed in thepreceding section.32

26. Id. at notes 347-48 and accompanying text.27. Of course, in particular cases, state evidentiary rules more restrictive than their

federal counterparts might make state prosecutions difficult, providing prosecutors witha motive to bring federal charges instead. Broad federal statutes such as RICO facilitatesuch forum-shopping. See, e.g., United States v. Zemek, 634 F.2d 1159, 1164 n.4 (9thCir. 1980) (taped conversations would have been excluded under state law).

28. Of course, the ability to create ever-larger criminal proceedings by increasingthe number of charges brought in the same prosecution presents problems of its own.These problems are addressed below, in the aggravated form presented when the RICOindictment encompasses not repeated instances of similar criminal conduct, but rathermultifarious crimes united only by common affiliation or association among those whohave committed them. See infra notes 191-197 and accompanying text.

29. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 360-425 and accompanying text.30. In more than 10% of the RICO cases in the sample (26 out of 236), the criminal

enterprise prosecuted was a drug distribution ring. Id. at 735 (Table I).31. The two substantive and one conspiracy narcotics offenses that would ordina-

rily be the basis for charging a drug offender with violations of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and(d) (1982) already expose a defendant to as much as 60 years' imprisonment. 21 U.S.C.§§ 841, 846 (1982). Certain high-level narcotics traffickers may even be subject to un-parolable life imprisonment under the "kingpin" or "continuing criminal enterprise"statute. Id. § 848.

32. Because conspiracies to violate the federal narcotics laws are punishable undera separate statute carrying its own substantial penalties, see 21 U.S.C. § 846 (1982),rather than being subject to the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371(1982), and because narcotics offenses are subject to federal jurisdiction without excep-tion, rather than on the patchwork basis of random jurisdictional factors, narcotics of-fenses typically do not present difficulties of federal jurisdiction or of locating a district

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On the other hand, as with other forms of criminal activity, thefinancial penalties attached to narcotics violations have not necessarilybeen commensurate with the extraordinary profit potential of such vio-lations. The fines provided by federal narcotics laws, while steeperthan those applicable to mail fraud, conspiracy, and other white collaroffenses, until recently have not been remotely comparable to the prof-its of major drug dealers. 33 Even if the fines had been significantlyhigher, however, they would not be adequate to take the profit out ofdrug dealing. The collection of fines presents a far graver problem inthe case of narcotics dealers, whose assets are generally underground,than in the case of white collar offenders, who more commonly havevisible sources of payment. While narcotics offenses always carried thepotential for civil forfeiture actions,3 4 before the Comprehensive GrimeControl Act of 1984, RICO's procedurally efficient criminal forfeitureremedy was only available under the narcotics statutes against the su-pervisors and managers of the ring subject to prosecution under theContinuing Criminal Enterprise statute.35 Prosecutors may have beeninduced to add RICO counts to ordinary narcotics conspiracy chargesin order to avail themselves of its automatic forfeiture provisions.36

This hypothesis is supported by several inferences that can bedrawn from the sample data. RICO indictments seem to be used innarcotics cases with some regularity where the narcotics ring involvedwas particularly extensive or profitable. In addition, the narcotics casesinclude a relatively large number of references to application of the for-feiture remedy,3 7 or to the involvement of a legitimate business organi-

in which the entire narcotics distribution operation can be prosecuted at an appropriatelevel of liability.

33. Before 1984, the maximum fine applicable to defendants convicted for the firsttime of distributing the most serious categories of narcotics was only $25,000. See 21U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) (1982) (amended by 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) (Supp. III 1985).Cf. United States v. Young, 745 F.2d 733 (2d Cir. 1984) (seizure at drug dealer's resi-dence of $1,379,240 in cash,jewelry valued at $1,371,105, 29 fur coats and other valua-ble property), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1084 (1985). Such an offense now carries a fine ofup to $250,000, which is raised to $500,000 for repeat offenders, 21 U.S.C.§ 841(b)(1)(A) (Supp. III 1985), or an alternative fine of up to twice the "gross profits orother proceeds" of the violation, id. § 853(a).

34. See 21 U.S.C. § 881 (1982 & Supp. III 1985).

35. 21 U.S.C. § 848 (1982). Since 1984, prosecutors may invoke criminal forfeitureto secure the proceeds of any narcotics felony. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 853, 970 (Supp. III1985).

36. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 266-67 and accompanying text.

37. See, e.g., United States v. Zielie, 734 F.2d 1447 (11th Cir. 1984), cert. denied,469 U.S. 1189 (1985); United States v. Cauble, 706 F.2d 1322 (5th Cir. 1983), cert.denied, 465 U.S. 1005 (1984); United States v. Godoy, 678 F.2d 84 (9th Cir. 1982), cert.denied, 464 U.S. 959 (1983); United States v. Mannino, 635 F.2d 110 (2d Cir. 1980).Since forfeitures will not invariably give rise to appellate issues, the appellate cases donot provide an especially reliable indication of the number of cases in which forfeiture issought or obtained.

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zation as a front for narcotics operations.38 Such references suggestthat RICO is used where an element of infiltration of legitimate busi-ness suggests that invocation of RICO is particularly apt, or where theavailability of forfeiture offers an alluring additional sanction.

One might question, however, whether the use of RICO to achievemarginally greater penalties in cases in which extensive financial penal-ties and extremely harsh jail terms are already available to deter andpunish justifies the existence of the statute. As in the case of white col-lar and labor offenses, if weak financial sanctions in narcotics laws hin-der their effective enforcement, a direct approach to that problem thatavoids the dangers and complexities of RICO is obviously preferable. 39

Moreover, Congress in 1984 responded to that problem by enacting adramatic increase in the fines applicable to narcotics offenses,40 provid-ing an alternative fine equal to twice the gross profits or proceeds fromnarcotics where even the enhanced fines are insufficient, 41 and adapt-ing the criminal forfeiture procedures pioneered by RICO to all felonynarcotics cases. 42 If additional penalties are needed in the fight againstnarcotics dealers, RICO is not necessary to provide them.

In some cases, RICO prosecutions are predicated not only on nar-cotics violations, but on other offenses committed in furtherance ofnarcotics activity. One common additional offense in RICO prosecu-tions of criminal activity is corruption of law enforcement. In somecases, the extent of corruption related to narcotics, gambling or prosti-tution is so extreme that the law enforcement organization itself be-comes the focus of prosecutorial interest.43 In others, the corruption

38. See, e.g., United States v. Tillett, 763 F.2d 628 (4th Cir. 1985); United States v.Adams, 759 F.2d 1099 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 336 (1985); United States v.Cauble, 706 F.2d 1322 (5th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S. 1005 (1984).

39. Nor do other possible reasons for the use of RICO in narcotics cases rooted inthe subjective motivations of prosecutors justify enactment of a new statute. In somecases, the use of RICO seems to be attributable to the understandable prosecutorialpreference for redundancy of charges as a safety precaution. See, e.g., United States v.Mannino, 635 F.2d 110, 118 (2d Cir. 1980) (unnecessary to decide whether RICO for-feiture was propeil, since same forfeiture in any event required by 21 U.S.C. § 848(1982)). Other redundant uses of RICO may stem from prosecutors' tendency to multi-ply charges to emphasize their view of the seriousness of the case.

40. Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473, §§ 501-504,98 Stat. 2068 (codified as amended at 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 845(a) (1984)); see supra note33 and accompanying text.

41. Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473, § 2301(d), 98Stat. 2192 (codified as amended at 21 U.S.C. § 853(a) (1984)); see supra note 33.

42. Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473, § 303, 98 Stat.2044 (codified as amended at 21 U.S.C. § 853 (1984)); see supra notes 34-35 and ac-companying text.

43. Generally speaking, I have classified these cases in Table I of Lynch, supra note1, at 735, as corruption rather than narcotics or gambling cases. See, e.g., United Statesv. Ambrose, 740 F.2d 505 (7th Cir. 1984) (narcotics), cert. denied, 472 U.S. 1017(1985); United States v. Griffin, 660 F.2d 996 (4th Cir. 1981) (gambling), cert. denied,454 U.S. 1156 (1982); United States v. Altomare, 625 F.2d 5 (4th Cir. 1980) (gambling);

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of law enforcement is merely an adjunct to a prosecution directed prin-cipally at the criminal group's primary activities.44

In such cases, in addition to its value as a sentence enhancer, addi-tion of a RICO charge also serves to bolster the prosecution's ability tojoin charges for trial. Even without RICO, crimes committed in orderto obstruct an investigation might be successfully added to an indict-ment for the principal offenses as "parts of a common scheme orplan,"'45 or treated as aspects of a continuing conspiracy.46 The use ofan overarching RICO offense, however, serves to clinch the prosecu-tion's ability to present the corruption charges together with the under-lying narcotics or other violations.

This motivation for use of RICO is especially strong where the of-fenses sought to be joined are very serious and prejudicial, and thusparticularly likely to be severed in the exercise of the trial judge's dis-cretion. 47 Several cases in which the principal focus of the criminal en-terprise was the distribution of narcotics exemplify this phenomenon.United States v. Thomas,48 for example, involved "a huge narcotics ringrun by a governing body called the 'Council.' -49 In addition to narcot-ics offenses, the predicate acts charged against the defendants, all alleg-edly important members or associates of the Council, included themurder of workers in the narcotics enterprise thought to be potentialinformers or otherwise threatening to the power of its leaders. 50 With-out RICO, the government's ability to charge these murders would

United States v. Baker, 617 F.2d 1060 (4th Cir. 1980) (prostitution); United States v.Lawrence, 605 F.2d 1321 (4th Cir. 1979) (narcotics), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1084 (1980);United States v. Blasco, 581 F.2d 681 (7th Cir.) (narcotics), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 966(1978); United States v. Ohlson, 552 F.2d 1347 (9th Cir. 1977) (narcotics).

44. See, e.g., United States v. Fernandez-Toledo, 749 F.2d 703 (11th Cir. 1985)(narcotics); United States v. Colacurcio, 659 F.2d 684 (5th Cir. 1981) (gambling), cert.denied, 455 U.S. 1002 (1982); United States v. Whitehead, 618 F.2d 523 (4th Cir. 1980)(prostitution).

45. Fed. R. Grim. P. 8(a).46. See, e.g., United States v. Cunningham, 723 F.2d 217 (2d Cir. 1983) (conspir-

acy to evade income taxes, commit perjury and obstruct justice), cert. denied, 466 U.S.951 (1984). But see Krulewitch v. United States, 336 U.S. 440, 443-44 (1949) (conspir-acy to commit a crime does not invariably include implied conspiracy to preventdetection).

47. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 14.48. 757 F.2d 1359 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 66 (1985).49. Id. at 1362. A principal witness against the Council's members was one of its

former leaders, Leroy "Nicky" Barnes. Id.; see also United States v. Barnes, 604 F.2d121 (2d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 907 (1980).

50. According to the Court of Appeals:In existence for 12 years-from 1972 to 1983-the Council purchased bulkquantities of pure heroin. Its . . . purpose was to pool the members' re-sources, share narcotics sources, allocate sales territories, adjudicate disputesamong members and handle the narcotics business of jailed members. EachCouncil member had a separate narcotics business and employed subordinatesto dilute and distribute the heroin in his territory. The Council also dealt incocaine, PCP, and marijuana. Council members routinely approved the

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have been dubious. First, except in unusual circ*mstances, murder is astate offense, not subject to federal jurisdiction. Second, even ifjuris-diction could be obtained in some circ*mstances, 51 a strong argumentcould be made that thejoinder of acts of violence would unfairly preju-dice the jury's ability to judge the evidence of narcotics crimes. Theeffort to avoid these arguments against use of the murder evidence un-doubtedly encourages use of RICO in such cases.5 2 The use of RICOto incorporate collateral crimes of violence into indictments chargingconspiracies to carry on narcotics or other "victimless" activities, how-ever, like its use to overcome jurisdictional boundaries to joinder ofrelated offenses, is only a minor instance of a phenomenon that reachesits fulfillment in massive indictments of organized crime members, ormembers of other sorts of criminal organizations, for a wide variety ofseparate types of criminal activities, united only by the common pur-pose of the organization to promote the long-range economic or polit-ical goals of its members. It is now time to consider that phenomenon.

C. The Multi-Faceted Criminal Enterprise

RICO has thus been used by federal authorities to make possible awide variety of prosecutions that could not have been brought effec-tively without it. But while these cases show the use of RICO to obtainjurisdiction, to increase available sanctions, and to effect otherwise du-bious joinder of offenses, the resulting trials would not look terriblystrange to a criminal lawyer who had spent the last twenty years in a RipVan Winkle-style slumber. For all of the advantages RICO has con-ferred upon prosecutors, the trials in the cases discussed so far havebeen easily recognizable as bribery trials, narcotics conspiracy cases,labor racketeering cases, and so on. In each, two or more reasonablyclosely related criminal acts, usually of the same general nature, havebeen charged against a reasonably manageable number of defendants.Although the jury is asked, at the end, not only to decide the defend-

murders of those suspected of being potential witnesses against the Council orof people who had been insubordinate.

Thomas, 757 F.2d at 1362.51. The indictment in Thomas included one count of conspiracy to murder govern-

ment witnesses in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241 (1982). That count apparently did notcover all of the murders allegedly attributable to the defendants; moreover, some weak-ness in the government's evidence or theory may be indicated by the fact that no defend-ants were convicted on that count. Thomas, 757 F.2d at 1362.

52. For other RICO cases involving narcotics organizations in which murder wasapparently included among the acts charged, see United States v. Mahoney, 712 F.2d956, 957 (5th Cir. 1983) ("drug dealing [and] the execution and burial of two potentialdrug purchasers"), cert. denied, 468 U.S. 1220 (1984); and United States v. Hawkins,681 F.2d 1343, 1346 (1 1th Cir.) (defendant's argument that murder evidence unfairlyprejudiced him in what was essentially a narcotics case summarily rejected "because theindictment includes murder as one of the offenses in the pattern of defendants' racke-teering activity ... even though the indictmerit did not charge murder"), cert. denied,459 U.S. 994 (1982).

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ants' guilt on the various specific acts, but also to make an overall deter-mination whether those acts formed a "pattern" in connection with an"enterprise," the rules of procedure and evidence, and the ultimatetests of guilt, have hardly been revolutionary.

But what would our attorney Van Winkle make of United States v.Castellano?53 The indictment in Castellano charged twenty-four defen-dants in seventy-eight counts. Count 1 of the indictment alone chargedall of the defendants and a number of unindicted "co-racketeers" withviolating section 1962(c), in that they conducted the affairs of a "crew"or subdivision of an organized crime family through a pattern of eightyseparate acts of racketeering,54 including "twenty-six murders, bribery,extortion, narcotics violations, thefts from interstate shipments, mailand wire fraud, obstruction of justice, transportation of stolen prop-erty, and transportation of women for purposes of prostitution," ex-tending over a period of more than eleven years.55 Several of the actsof racketeering themselves consisted not of individual actions, but ofcomplex conspiracies and schemes, or were technically duplicitive inthat they charged more than one crime arising out of the same criminalepisode. 56 Numerous acts of racketeering charged could not have beenprosecuted as criminal offenses in their own right, either because thestatute of limitations had already run on those offenses,5 7 or becausethey had been the subject of previous prosecutions. 58 Moreover, alarge number of those acts could never have been charged indepen-dently in federal court for lack of jurisdiction, and in any event almostnone of the racketeering acts could have been prosecuted in the gov-ernment's chosen venue, because "virtually every significant racketeer-ing act alleged in the indictment" occurred outside that district.59

While the range of activities charged against the enterprise wasvast, the involvement of many of the defendants in those activitiescould only be described as tangential. For example, one defendant wasa juror who allegedly took a bribe to fix a prosecution of one of themembers of the "crew"; another's entire involvement (limited to threeof the eighty racketeering acts charged in the indictment) consisted ofhiring members of the crew to bribe and ultimately to murder a witnessagainst his son in a state prosecution entirely unrelated to the affairs ofthe enterprise; others were involved only in one of the many criminal

53. 610 F. Supp. 1359 (S.D.N.Y. 1985).54. Count 2 charged the same defendants with conspiring to commit this offense, in

-violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) (1982). Castellano, 610 F. Supp. at 1379.55. Id. at 1378-79.56. Id. at 1379, 1423-24.57. See id. at 1380-84.58. See id. at 1413-23. Thirty-six of the eighty racketeering acts alleged in the

indictment either "(i) ... were the subject of prior state proceedings; (ii) ... have previ-ously resulted in federal convictions; [or] (iii) . . .were the subject of favorable federalrulings." Id. at 1413.

59. Id. at 1388.

1987] RICO 929


affairs of the enterprise, and not at all in its more violent activities. 60

All of these defendants were to be tried together, despite the fact thatlittle of the evidence in what could only be an extraordinarily lengthytrial would have any direct bearing on their own actions. Moreover, thegovernment's proof would not be limited to the actions of the defend-ants on trial. The actions and fates of several alleged co-racketeers"not [named as] defendant[s] herein because [they were] murdered"would also be proved, as would the fact that the "defendants are part oforganized crime, and particularly the Mafia." 61

Our Rip Van Winkle of a defense lawyer would probably regardthe notion that such a case could be tried in this form as the product ofa demented prosecutor with delusions of grandeur and no understand-ing of the rules of procedure and evidence. Yet the government's in-dictment, and its plan to try the case in a single proceeding, weresustained in virtually every particular by a scholarly and moderate dis-trict judge in a careful opinion that persuasively demonstrates thatRICO permits all of these consequences. 62

Nor is Castellano an aberration. The fourteen cases from our sam-ple classified as involving "diversified syndicates," and most of thecases categorized as involving "violence and extortion" or "political vi-olence,"'63 involved criminal conduct almost as diverse, and problemsof trial procedure almost as complex, as the Castellano prosecution. Thecases present various patterns. In some, like Castellano, the RICO en-terprise is explicitly identified as a traditional organized crime family-in effect, an arm of the Mafia-engaged in the provision of unlawfulgoods and services (prostitution, gambling, narcotics, loan-sharking),appropriation of the property of others (theft, fraud, extortion) andcrimes of violence attendant on the operation and enforcement of suchschemes. 64 Others involve groups of criminals that are smaller or that

60. Id. at 1402-07.61. Id. at 1428.62. United States v. Castellano, 610 F. Supp. 1359 (S.D.N.Y. 1985) (Sofaer, J.).

Judge Sofaer left the bench shortly after writing that opinion to become Legal Advisorto the State Department. One assumes that the judge's resignation was unrelated to theprospect of presiding over the trial of the Castellano indictment. The judge to whom thecase was thereupon assigned decided to sever some of the non-RICO counts of the in-dictment, but the RICO count is still scheduled to be tried more or less as described inJudge Sofaer's opinion.

63. See Lynch, supra note 1, at 735 (Table I).64. See, e.g., United States v. Persico, 774 F.2d 30 (2d Cir. 1985) (Colombo organ-

ized crime family; extortion, loan sharking, gambling, narcotics, interstate theft frominterstate shipments, bribery, and intimidation by threats, beatings and murders);United States v. Gallo, 763 F.2d 1504 (6th Cir. 1985) (Cleveland organized crime group;murder, narcotics, gambling); United States v. Ruggiero, 754 F.2d 927 (11 th Cir.) ("aloose-knit enterprise composed of members of several La Cosa Nostra 'families' "; gam-bling, extortion, collection of debts by violence, bribery, robbery, narcotics), cert. de-nied, 471 U.S. 1127 (1985); United States v. Ruggiero, 726 F.2d 913 (2d Cir.) (Bonannoorganized crime family; murder, possession of stolen property, theft from interstate

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lack formal affiliation with traditional organized crime groups, but thatengage in similar patterns of ongoing, organized criminality.65 At leastone case involves the efforts of a criminal group to control a legitimateindustry through a pattern of criminal activity, in a classic pattern ofviolent infiltration of legitimate business. 66

In addition to these groups of organized criminals, RICO has beenused against groups whose methods may sometimes resemble those oftraditional organized crime syndicates, but whose goals are quite differ-ent-political terrorists. In these cases, too, RICO has enabled prose-cutors to link together a wide range of different offenses committed bynumerous different individuals, linked together by common aims, over-lapping patterns of complicity in different crimes and general aware-ness that others committed to the same goals were engaged in similarillegal acts, in ways that would be impossible under traditional rules ofjoinder, jurisdiction and venue. For example, in United States v.Bagaric,67 prosecutors presented evidence of "at least fifty acts of extor-tion carried out in this country, two murders of extortion victims, sev-eral unsuccessful efforts to murder, approximately a dozen bombingsand attempted bombings ... and the transportation of weapons andexplosives from coast to coast," committed by a terrorist group of Cro-atian nationalists. 68 Although venue was laid in New York, the activitiesof the ten defendants in the thirteen-week trial centered on Chicago,Los Angeles, Cleveland and Toronto, and included evidence of crimi-nal acts in New York, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Akron andBridgeport-as well as Canada, Paraguay and West Germany-over a

shipments, narcotics, gambling), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 831 (1984); United States v. Sin-ito, 723 F.2d 1250 (6th Cir. 1983) (Cleveland organized crime family; murder, gambling,narcotics, obstruction of justice), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 817 (1984); United States v.Riccobene, 709 F.2d 214 (3d Cir.) (Philadelphia crime family; gambling, fraud, loan-sharking), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 849 (1983).

65. See, e.g., United States v. Watchmaker, 761 F.2d 1459 (11 th Cir. 1985) (OutlawMotorcycle Club; narcotics, prostitution, murder, assault, extortion), cert. denied, 106 S.Ct. 879 (1986); United States v. Tille, 729 F.2d 615 (9th Cir.) (murder, arson, bribery,illegal traffic in cigarettes, gambling), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 845 (1984); United States v.Sutton, 642 F.2d 1001 (6th Cir. 1980) (en banc) (narcotics, fencing, insurance fraud),cert. denied, 453 U.S. 912 (1981); United States v. Diecidue, 603 F.2d 535 (5th Cir.1979) ("contract" murders, armed robberies, narcotics, counterfeiting, possession ofstolen Treasury bills), cert. denied, 445 U.S. 946 (1980); United States v. Maltesta, 583F.2d 748 (5th Cir. 1978) (narcotics, assault, kidnapping, extortion, robbery) , modified,590 F.2d 1379 (en banc), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 962 (1979). United States v. Elliott, 571F.2d 880 (5th Cir.) (narcotics, arson, theft from interstate shipments, murder), cert. de-nied, 439 U.S. 953 (1978), is the prototype case in this category.

66. United States v. Zemek, 634 F.2d 1159 (9th Cir. 1980) (attempt to monopolizeWashington state tavern business through murder, arson, bribery, mail fraud, extortionand gambling), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 985 (1981).

67. 706 F.2d 42 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 840 (1983).

68. Brief for the United States at 3-4, United States v. Bagaric, 706 F.2d 42 (2dCir.) (No. 82-1247), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 840 (1983).

1987] RICO


seven-year period.69 Although the testimony proved conclusively thatthe convicted defendants were all committed members of the group,and had each been involved in two or more of the specific violent actsalleged, the cast of characters involved in each act of racketeeringproved by the government differed.70 Several similar prosecutions, in-volving other extremist political sects, can be cited.7 1

While the number of cases fitting this pattern is small in compari-son to the number of cases involving government corruption, businessfraud, labor racketeering or more specialized criminal organizations, 7 2

it is in these cases that RICO presents its most innovative face, and itsmost significant challenge to orthodox notions of criminal law, proce-dure and evidence.

D. The Transaction-Based Model of Crime

In order to understand RICO's value in prosecuting diversified il-licit enterprises, and the potential abuses of such prosecutions, we mustfirst understand the limits imposed on criminal prosecutions by ourconventional understanding of what a crime is, and the potential ofRICO to explode those limitations.

Fundamental to our traditional law of crimes, criminal procedureand evidence is a conception of crime that is transaction-bound. Syn-

69. Id. at 3-23. See also 706 F.2d at 46-51.70. For example, only one of the defendants was linked to the very first act of racke-

teering alleged, an attempted murder in Pittsburgh in 1975.71. See, e.g., United States v. Chimurenga, 760 F.2d 400 (2d Cir. 1985) (black rev-

olutionaries; conspiracies to commit armed robbery and engineer prison escapes);United States v. Ferguson, 758 F.2d 843 (2d Cir.) (same), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 124(1985); United States v. Ivic, 700 F.2d 51 (2d Cir. 1983) (Croatian terrorists; murder,arson, explosives). For other prosecutions involving political extremists, but involvingless extreme combinations of acts or defendants, see United States v. Arocena, 778 F.2d943 (2d Cir. 1985) ("Omega 7" Cuban exile group; murder, arson, extortion, narcotics;only one defendant), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 1281 (1986); United States v. Dickens, 695F.2d 765 (3d Cir. 1982) ("New World of Islam" black political/religious group; armedrobberies), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1092 (1983).

72. Of the 236 RICO indictments in the sample, 14 involved diversified criminalsyndicates, and another 6 involved violent political groups-together, just under 10% ofthe total. To these might be added a few of the cases in which the enterprise was princi-pally involved with a less diffuse form of criminal activity, but in which use of RICO as aprosecution vehicle permitted addition of other more-or-less related criminal acts. See,e.g., the narcotics cases discussed supra notes 44-51 and accompanying text. Whilemost of the cases I have classified as principally involving violence and extortion, seeLynch, supra note 1, at 735 (Table I), involve conspiracies of a more limited nature, see,e.g., United States v. Licavoli, 725 F.2d 1040 (6th Cir.), cert. denied, 467 U.S. 1252(1984), several of them seem to involve broader criminal organizations, and may alsopresent in qualified form problems similar to those of the diversified syndicate cases.See, e.g., United States v. Contreras, 755 F.2d 733 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct.100 (1985); United States v. Russotti, 717 F.2d 27 (2d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 465 U.S.1022 (1984); United States v. Thevis, 665 F.2d 616 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 456 U.S.1008 (1982); United States v. Barton, 647 F.2d 224 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 857(1981).

[Vol. 87:920932

thesizers of the common-law tradition tell us that the core of any defini-tion of crime is a particular act or omission. 73 That act or omission isconceived as taking place in an instant of time so precise that it can beassociated with a particular mental state of intention, awareness of risk,or neglect of due care.74 The verbs that form the heart of the defini-tions of particular offenses ("takes and carries away," "engages in sex-ual intercourse," "damages by starting a fire," "sells a controlledsubstance") typically refer to single rather than repeated actions, com-pleted in a brief span of time. Where the verbs in penal statutes insteadrefer to causing a particular result ("causes the death of another humanbeing," "causes serious physical injury")-a process that can extendover a period of time-the focus of inquiry into a defendant's culpabil-ity must nevertheless be a specific, momentary act or omission. 75 Eventhe crime of conspiracy, which in practice may permit an examinationof an extended course of conduct by one or more individuals, does soin the guise of using that course of conduct as evidence from which toinfer that a particular act of "agreement" occurred, presumably at aspecific, if not precisely ascertainable, moment in time.76

Of course, while the criminal act itself must generally meet thiscriterion, other elements in the definition of a crime sometimes allowexpansion of the relevant time-frame. Attendant circ*mstance ele-ments can have this effect. For example, in the crime of rape, the act ofpenetration provides an identifiable instant in which the crime is com-plete. But the required circ*mstance that the act of intercourse be theproduct of forcible compulsion, which really represents the crux of theoffense, may significantly blur the time boundary of the inquiry, andmake identification of the precise act that makes the conduct criminal(as opposed to the act that completes the offense) more difficult. In

73. See, e.g., I Model Penal Code § 2.01 (1985); W. LaFave & A. Scott, CriminalLaw 175-91 (1972); S. Kadish, S. Schulhofer & M. Paulsen, Criminal Law and ItsProcesses: Cases and Materials 249-67 (4th ed. 1983); G. Williams, Criminal Law: TheGeneral Part 1-29 (2d ed. 1961).

74. Although omissions are frequently transaction-specific (e.g., failure to throw arope to a drowning man), often they are not (e.g., failure to provide nourishment ormedical care for a child). The tendency to shade into undefined courses of conduct is inlarge part what makes liability for omissions problematic.

75. It may be argued that this is not entirely true for accomplices. Verbs like "aid"do not describe concrete, particular action, and thus may permit some slurring of thegeneral requirement that criminal liability crystallize in a specific act. For example, inthe famous case of Wilcox v.Jeffrey, 1 All E.R. 464 (K.B. 1951), in which ajazz critic wasconvicted for aiding a performance by an alien not authorized to work in the UnitedKingdom, did Wilcox become liable when he attended the Coleman Hawkins concert?When he applauded? When he wrote about it? All of these acts seem relevant to thecourt's conclusion that he provided aid or encouragement. Still, these acts are closelyenough linked in time to be considered part of the same transaction. Whether accesso-rial liability could be predicated on a series of distinct acts or transactions, no one ofwhich was sufficient in itself to constitute aid, is more problematic.

76. The relation of RICO to conspiracy law is discussed in more detail infra notes117-154 and accompanying text.

93319871 RICO


borderline cases of intimidation and implied threat, it may be difficultto determine which, if any, of a series of actions by an accused rapistconstituted the culpable application of force. Similarly, defenses suchas duress or self-defense make relevant courses of conduct, by the de-fendant or another, that break the boundaries of the brief transactionthat constitutes the charged offense. Most dramatically, the insanity de-fense can make the defendant's entire life history the subject of a trial.

Most importantly, the mental element of most crimes (and, in thecase of conspiracy, the mental act of agreement itself) will often makerelevant a course of conduct extending beyond the specific criminaltransaction, because of the need to prove such mental states inferen-tially. For example, intent or premeditation may be shown by prior ac-tivities that show planning for the crime. Proof of motive, which is alsorelevant to proving intent, may require an extensive inquiry into thebackground of the specific act charged. But almost all of these possibleexpansions of the scope of the inquiry are anchored to the particularact or transaction in question in the case. The expanded inquiry is al-ways directed at ascertaining the circ*mstances or mental state of theaccused at a particular instant identified by the act charged. Other actsor events are relevant only to the extent they support an inferenceabout that question.

The focus on particular events in defining crimes is not merely alinguistic convention. The requirement that criminal punishment bebased on a specific act has deep roots. The very nature of criminal pun-ishment, as distinct from other uses of the compulsive power of thestate (such as mandatory treatment for physical or mental illness), re-quires that a person not be punished for bad character, tendency tocommit crime, or even a specifically formulated intention to commitsome particular prohibited act. Before the state can deprive a citizen ofliberty in a punitive way, the individual must manifest that character ortendency by the commission of some concrete prohibited act. 77

In significant part, the purpose of this limitation is the protectionof an individual from punishment for thoughts or traits not yet exem-plified by actual harmful conduct.78 But the moral basis of the focus onparticular acts extends beyond this problem. Even for those accused ofcommitting what is unquestionably a concrete, particular offense, weare careful to guard against the possibility that a defendant may be con-victed and punished for bad character rather than for the particular actcharged. The insistence on incident-based liability thus has importantconsequences for our rules of procedure and evidence.

Since the crime with which a defendant is charged took place at a

77. This doctrine has constitutional status in the United States. See Robinson v.California, 370 U.S. 660 (1962).

78. The law of inchoate crimes, and in particular the question of the point at whichpreparatory conduct generates liability for attempt, is a principal concrete instance ofthis problem.

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particular moment in time, the relevance of a defendant's actions priorto that moment is always problematic; some tendency to support aninference about what the defendant did or what he thought at the mo-ment of the crime is always necessary for such a prior act or event tomatter.79 We are particularly concerned about the relevance of prioractions which themselves constitute crimes. Because we fear that ajurywill "irrationally" conclude that a person who has committed priorcrimes will be guilty of the offense for which he stands accused on aparticular occasion, or will dismiss the very question of his present guiltin favor of a condemnation of his general bad character, evidence ofprior crimes-as well as evidence of general bad character or criminalassociations-is usually excluded from evidence. Such information isadmissible only where its particular relevance to the specific actcharged greatly outweighs the "prejudice" it occasions by distractingthe jury from the only question properly before it-the defendant's ac-tions in the particular incident being examined.80 For similar reasons,charges that a defendant is guilty of more than one offense, or that twoor more defendants are guilty of joint crimes, may only be tried to-gether where the charges are so closely related that it would be mani-festly inefficient to have separate trials.8i Where joint trials of differentalleged offenses or offenders are permitted, we are-in theory at least-careful to guard against the danger that evidence relevant to one crimewill unfairly "spill over" into what ought to be a clinically pure evalua-tion of the evidence concerning another.8 2 A criminal trial thus tendsto focus on a particular incident or transaction.

The transaction-based model is so fundamental to our ways ofthinking about criminal law that we tend to take it for granted. Profes-sor Kelman has pointed out the importance of questioning the func-tions of such "unconscious interpretive constructs" that "shape the waywe view disruptive incidents."83 He views "narrow time-framing" anda tendency to treat incidents as "disjoined" or separate transactions(central aspects of the transaction-based model) as tools to "buttressthe traditionally asserted intentionalism of the criminal justice system,"and suppress the political choices inherent in imposing punishment.8 4

Both the procedural and substantive manifestations of the model

79. The defense attorney's standard effort to gain sympathy for her client by elicit-ing testimony about his personal and family history, to take a common example, is tech-nically objectionable, though generally allowed by prosecutors for tactical reasons andby judges who believe in giving defendants "latitude" in applying the rules of evidence.If such testimony goes on too long, one may expect to hear the judge instruct the attor-ney to "get on to something relevant soon."

80. See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 404(b).81. See, e.g., Fed. R. Crim. P. 8.82. See, e.g., Fed. R. Crim. P. 14.83. Kelman, Interpretive Construction in the Substantive Criminal Law, 33 Stan. L.

Rev. 591, 593 (1981).84. Id. at 600, 664.

1987] RICO


of crime based on specific incidents or acts are indeed associated with aparticular conception of the individual as a moral actor. The carefulelaborations in our penal codes of the precise nature of the prohibitedacts, and the equally careful calibrations of the degree of blameworthi-ness to be attributed to different prohibited acts, seem to presupposeactors with a free will to avoid the prohibited conduct, who can fairly beapportioned different degrees of guilt or punishment based on the na-ture of the conduct in which they have chosen to engage. Indeed, ourrules of procedure seem to carry this notion of moral freedom evenfurther. The individual is implicitly conceived not only as free in princi-ple to act in accordance with or in violation of defined norms, but alsoas free at any given moment to make choices at odds with any consis-tent character that may be deduced from his prior acts. To infer that adefendant committed the particular offense for which he is being triedfrom the fact that he has previously committed other crimes of a gener-ally similar nature-or, worse still, other crimes of an entirely differentnature-is not only unfair, but inconsistent with a fundamental suppo-sition that criminal behavior is punishable because it represents a freechoice at a particular moment in time to commit an immoral act.85

Indeed, the power of this model of the individual is so strong thatsome proponents of the "just deserts" model of punishment have ar-gued that the focus on the individual incident rather than on the char-acter of the offender should be extended even into the sentencingprocess. On this view, a defendant's past conduct or overall characterwould have no relevance at all in determining an appropriate sentence,giving especially concrete content to the idea of punishing the crimeand not the criminal.8 6 At this point, however, our tradition until re-cently has balked, and the sentencing decision has been seen, withinlimits set by a vague principle of proportionality and by concrete maxi-mum sentences devised by legislatures in correlation to the seriousnessof particular offenses, as including appropriate attention to treatmentand incapacitation goals based in part on the general character of theoffender.87 The prevalence of legislative proposals for less discretion-ary, more conduct-based sentencing systems may suggest that the re-tributive view of crime may be weakening even the citadel of sentencingdiscretion.

85. The politically "conservative" conception that an individual's acts are each sep-arately punishable acts of a morally autonomous actor is in this sense the flip side of the"reformist" conception of human perfectability that insists that the former offendershould be assumed to have reformed. Both require that character evidence have a lim-ited role to play in the criminal justice system.

86. See, e.g., G. Fletcher, Rethinking Criminal Law 459-66 (1978); R. Singer, JustDeserts: Sentencing Based on Equality and Desert (1979); cf. von Hirsch, Desert andPrevious Convictions in Sentencing, 65 Minn. L. Rev. 591 (1981) (defending relevanceof prior criminal record, but no other evidence of prior character or conduct, even in"just deserts" model of sentencing).

87. See, e.g., Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241 (1949).

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But Professor Kelman is wrong in his claim that these moral no-tions are the sole basis of the transaction model, and that they haveserved to obscure the function of criminal law as a means of social con-trol. The historical roots of the transaction model reach back far be-yond the relatively recent philosophical arguments with which Kelmanassociates it. Indeed, the notion that individuals (or at least nobles)should not be punished except for defined conduct-according to thelaw of the land-has roots in the explicitly political demands of the bar-ons at Runnymede not to be subjected to punishment by arbitrary fiatfrom above. It is precisely because criminal punishment constitutes anexercise of power by the strong over the weak that the weak have de-manded limitations on its exercise, including that punishment only beimposed on a showing of particular conduct, defined in advance.

If such a system is to function, a trial has to be about somethingrelatively concrete.88 The historical and political roots of the transac-tion model show, on one hand, that that model cannot merely be dis-missed as a mask for fundamentally arbitrary exercises of power; theysuggest, on the other, that to those not committed to a purely retribu-tivist position, the attributes of that model are contingent-part of theimportant but adjustable balance that the criminal law must alwaysmaintain between the exercise of social control and the maintenance ofindividual liberty.

E. The Enterprise Offense

RICO prosecutions of criminal enterprises present a serious chal-lenge to the substantive and procedural implications of this transaction-based model of crime.

This challenge is partially apparent on the face of the statute. Or-dinary criminal statutes, as we have seen, define the conduct they pro-hibit in terms of rather concrete actions that can be committed in anidentifiable moment of time. Indeed, two of the three substantiveprohibitions imposed by the RICO statute in essence follow this verymodel. Those sections make it a crime to "use or invest" money fromparticular sources in a particular way, 89 and to "acquire ... any inter-est" in an enterprise by means of certain conduct. 90 While the neces-

88. 1 think Professor Schwartz has this relationship between fair procedure and nar-rowly time-bound definitions of criminal conduct in mind in criticizing Kelman for his"failure to imagine what criminal trials would be like" absent the limits of the transac-tion model. Schwartz, With Gun and Camera Through Darkest CLS-Land, 36 Stan. L.Rev. 413, 451 (1984).

89. 18 U.S.C. § 1962(a) (1982).90. 18 U.S.C. § 1962(b) (1982). In fact, § 1962(b) uses the language "acquire or

maintain" an interest. (Emphasis added.) As we have seen, § 1962(b) has been infre-quently used, and prosecutions invoking it have generally charged the acquisition ofbusiness interests through criminal means, in keeping with the intention of the statute toprohibit infiltration of legitimate entities by criminals. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes270-84 and accompanying text. In the rare case in which the "maintain" language has

1987] RICO


sity of proving a "pattern of racketeering activity" may well permitproof of a variety of (possibly only distantly related) criminal acts, theact that constitutes the offense is a single, specific action-acquisition ofa business interest. The particular moment at which an individual com-mits the prohibited act can, in theory and usually in practice, be identi-fied. Past acts of racketeering are relevant to the offense charged only ifthey bear directly on the particular acquisition of an interest charged inthe indictment. 91

Section 1962(c), in contrast, makes it a crime to "conduct or par-ticipate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct" of the affairs of any "en-terprise[] ... through a pattern of racketeering activity."'92 The verywords of the statute reveal an intent to prohibit not any particular,time-bound action, but a course of conduct extending over a potentiallylengthy period of time. Although the predicate acts of racketeering areconventional crimes, defined in terms of specific conduct, the actualRICO violation is not identifiable by the physical contours of a particu-lar action or effect. Rather, the defining characteristic of the "patternof racketeering" is the relationship of certain conduct to other conductand to the "enterprise," which itself is an abstract construct of certaininterpersonal relationships. Whether or not this definition is vague inthe technical legal sense of the word,93 the level of abstraction in thedefinition permits the offense to cover a wide variety of conduct forwhich ordinary language does not supply a single common term. 94

RICO is such an oddity among penal statutes that its exponentsfrequently claim that it is not really a criminal statute at all, arguing that"RICO is a remedial, as opposed to substantive, statute" because "[t]he

any specific force, see, e.g., United States v. Brown, 583 F.2d 659 (3d Cir. 1978), cert.denied, 440 U.S. 909 (1979), the crime is essentially similar to cases normally broughtunder § 1962(c), and the discussion in the text concerning that section is applicable.See Lynch, supra note 1, at note 273.

91. This requirement poses a practical as well as a theoretical limitation on thenumber and breadth of criminal acts that can be tied into a single indictment. This ismost apparent in 1962(b) cases, where the only relevant racketeering acts are those thatwere the means of acquiring a single business. If Al Capone acquired a particular vend-ing machine business by a series of acts of extortion, his record of prior criminalitywould be as irrelevant in a prosecution under § 1962(b) as in any other case; the onlycrimes that could be shown as part of the pattern would be those involved in the particu-lar scheme to acquire that one business. Section 1962(a) may permit more flexibility,because of the difficulty of tracing proceeds to a particular crime. Still, the prosecutionbears the burden of showing that the funds invested came from identifiable acts of racke-teering, thus necessitating some proof tying the investment to its sources, and limitingthe prosecution's ability to include all it knows about the defendant's criminal career.

92. 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c) (1982).93. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 146-51 & 237-60 and accompanying text.94. Of course, "murder" and "theft" are no more "natural" categories-assuming

there is any such thing as a "natural" category-than is "racketeering." They are ab-stract legal concepts that are culturally imposed on physical events. These categories,however, are sufficiently rooted in broader, nontechnical cultural categories to seem vir-tually natural to lay citizens.

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provisions of section 1962 do not create 'new crimes' but serve as theprerequisites for the invocation of increased sanctions for conductwhich is proscribed elsewhere in both federal and state criminalcodes." 95 But this claim is misleading. In formal terms, RICO isplainly a criminal statute; each of its provisions, including section1962(c), defines a certain cluster of behaviors as a new crime. Like sec-tion 1962(c), a statute establishing a higher penalty for certain murdersdefined as "first-degree" does not prohibit conduct previously lawful,but rather establishes "prerequisites for the invocation of increasedsanctions for conduct which is [already] proscribed. ' 96 But such stat-utes are certainly substantive criminal laws, in any commonly under-stood meaning of the term.

The distinction between remedial and substantive statutes is notmerely formal or rhetorical; it has serious procedural and substantiveconsequences. If RICO were truly only a remedial statute which addedan additional sentencing consideration to affect the punishment metedout for what were elsewhere defined as criminal acts, there might wellbe no need to require that the sentence-enhancing element be provedto a jury beyond a reasonable doubt; the recidivist or organized enter-prise element might be deferred to a post-trial sentencing hearing, withthe necessary findings to be made before a judge subject to a lowerstandard of proof.97

Moreover, it is the fact that RICO does define a crime that entailssome of its most dramatic procedural and evidentiary consequences.

95. United States v. Neapolitan, 791 F.2d 489, 495 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 107 S.Ct. 421 (1986); see also Blakey & Gettings, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organiza-tions (RICO): Basic Concepts-Criminal and Civil Remedies, 53 Temp. L.Q. 1009,1021 n.71 (1980) ("RICO is not a criminal statute; it does not make criminal conductthat before its enactment was not already prohibited, since its application depends onthe existence of 'racketeering activity' that violates an independent criminal statute.").This claim, of course, is flatly wrong as to § 1962(a), which makes criminal an act (theinvestment of money derived from certain sources) that was previously lawful. Theclaim is presumably to be understood as principally applicable to § 1962(c).

96. Neapolitan, 791 F.2d at 495.97. Cf. 18 U.S.C. § 3575 (1985) (prospectively repealed 1984) (statute provides for

increased sentence for dangerous special offenders); see also McMillan v. Pennsylvania,106 S. Ct. 2411 (1986). A statute that significantly increased the available sentencewhenever it could be shown that the crime a defendant was convicted of was committedin the course of conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeeringactivity would be distinguishable from the statute upheld in McMillan. That Penn-sylvania statute provided for a mandatory minimum sentence, not an increase in themaximum, based on a fact that was relatively easily ascertainable-visibly possessing afirearm during the commission of an offense-and did not involve a dramatic increase ineither the stigma or the total potential punishment beyond that already attached to thebasic prohibition. The Court's holding may turn out to be conditioned on all three ofthese facts. Still, the principal factor driving the opinion, as the citations to Patterson v.New York, 432 U.S. 197 (1977), make clear, is a highly formal distinction between ele-ments of crimes and mere sentencing considerations. It is perfectly clear that RICO asnow drafted is, for purposes of the McMillan doctrine, a criminal statute.

1987] RICO


Since section 1962(c) defines participating in the affairs of an enterprisethrough a pattern of racketeering as a crime separate and apart fromthe predicate acts, it does not merely enhance the statutory penalty forthe predicate acts, but rather permits the imposition of consecutivesentences for the RICO offense and the predicates.98 Because theRICO offense is a separate crime, the statute of limitations runs onlyfrom its completion; thus, every additional racketeering offense com-mitted in furtherance of the enterprise's affairs within ten years of aprevious one extends the statute of limitations for another five years forprosecution of the entire pattern. 99 A RICO indictment thus may holda defendant accountable for acts that took place twenty or more yearsbefore the date of the indictment-not for the penalty attached to thepredicate crime, but for the separately defined RICO offense.

Even within the ordinary limits of the double jeopardy principleand the statute of limitations, a prosecutor can use section 1962(c) toplace before a single jury in a single trial offenses that could not other-wise be included in the same indictment or admitted into evidence atthe same trial. Suppose, for example, the authorities develop evidencethat the same defendant from whom they have recently made an under-cover purchase of narcotics is a member of an organized crime familywho committed a contract killing three years earlier. Under our ordi-nary, transaction-bound rules of procedure and evidence, the defend-ant would have to be tried separately for each offense. Since the earliercrime is plainly not part of the same course of events as the later, join-der of the two crimes would not be possible; if the homicide had takenplace in another state, jurisdictional or venue problems would also pre-vent joinder.100

In a trial on the narcotics charge alone, moreover, the evidence ofa prior homicide committed by the defendant would likely be excludedas irrelevant and highly prejudicial. Evidence that the defendant in anarcotics trial was part of the "Mafia" would surely be excluded asmerely prejudicial evidence of the defendant's character and associa-tions. And the prosecutor presumably would not even think about try-ing to elicit evidence of crimes that some other member of the samecrime family had committed, in which this particular defendant was notpersonally involved. Evidence of the defendant's involvement in orga-nized crime or of the murder he may have committed might finally sur-face after the defendant's conviction, as part of an argument for a

98. United States v. Peaco*ck, 654 F.2d 339 (5th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 464 U.S.965 (1983); United States v. Boylan, 620 F.2d 359 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 833(1980); United States v. Solano, 605 F.2d 1141 (9th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 444 U.S.1020 (1980).

99. 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961(5), 3282 (1985).100. Moreover, if the evidence of the homicide, though legally sufficient to support

a guilty verdict, was relatively weak, a judgment might well be made that the chances ofobtaining a conviction did not justify the risks of requiring an important informant totestify, so that case might not be prosecuted at all.

[Vol. 87:920

severe sentence. 10 1

If the case could be indicted and tried under RICO, however, all ofthe evidence regarding this defendant's activities could easily bepresented in the same trial. Since the government would have to allegeand prove a pattern of racketeering activity, the murder and the narcot-ics offense could be alleged as elements of the same crime, the violationof section 1962(c). The rules precluding admission of evidence ofother crimes, consequently, would simply have no application-evi-dence of the homicide would not be evidence of a prior crime, but evi-dence of the very offense charged in the indictment.

Jurisdictional and venue problems disappear, as well. It is irrele-vant that the federal government lacks jurisdiction to prosecute ordi-nary homicides; the crime charged here is racketeering that affectsinterstate commerce, not murder. The single crime of racketeering,like any other crime, can be prosecuted in any district where a portionof the crime was committed, 10 2 so any venue problem with combiningcrimes committed in different districts disappears.

The government would also have to allege and prove that thecrimes were committed in furtherance of the affairs of an enterprise, sothe prosecution would be permitted to show the existence, purposesand structure of the organized crime family, and the defendant's mem-bership in it.103 Even if no other defendant were on trial, this may ne-cessitate reference to criminal activities committed by other membersof the organization, as examples of its continuing nature, hierarchicalstructure, or purposes as an entity; if the defendant were indicted alongwith several other alleged members of the same organized crime family,as is commonly done in RICO prosecutions, their crimes would ofcourse have to be proved too. Joining those defendants in the sameindictment would automatically be proper, of course; since the defend-ants were all jointly charged with the same crime-the RICO viola-tion-we are faced not with thejoinder of several separate offenses bydifferent actors, but with a single offense all the defendants are allegedto have committed together.' 0 4

All of these procedural consequences stem from the fact that viola-

101. At this point, ironically, the information that previously had been kept out ofthe process altogether not only would be permitted to have a potentially dramatic effecton the defendant's fate, but would be admitted into the process in forms that at the trialwould have been regarded as so unfair and unreliable as to be excluded. See McMillanv. Pennsylvania, 106 S. Ct. 2411 (1986); United States v. Fatico, 579 F.2d 707 (2d Cir.1978), cert. denied, 444 U.S. 1073 (1980); Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241 (1949).

102. 18 U.S.C. § 3237 (1985).103. See, e.g., United States v. Ruggiero, 726 F.2d 913, 918 (2d Cir.), cert. denied,

469 U.S. 831 (1984); United States v. Brooklier, 685 F.2d 1208, 1223 (9th Cir. 1982),cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1206 (1983).

104. For a typical example of the casual rejection customarily given by appellatecourts to arguments for severance in RICO cases, see United States v. Russo, 796 F.2d1443 (11 th Cir. 1986).

1987] RICO


tion of section 1962(c) is defined as a single crime, and our proceduralsystem, for reasons alluded to above, attaches considerable importanceto the concept of a crime as a unified event, distinct from other crimes.If RICO's effects are principally remedial, in the sense that the statute'simportance lies not in the prohibition of certain conduct, but in theprocedural and sentencing consequences of committing conduct al-ready defined as criminal, it accomplishes most of those effects pre-cisely by the fact that it is indeed, in formal terms, a substantivecriminal statute.

In substance, as well as in form, section 1962(c) defines a substan-tive crime. The RICO offense is not reducible to the predicate acts ofracketeering. If the jury determines beyond a reasonable doubt thatthe defendant committed those acts, it still must find an additional ele-ment before it can convict: that the predicate acts were committed inthe conduct of the affairs of an enterprise. 10 5

The significance of this additional element varies considerably indifferent types of RICO cases. Where, as in the bulk of the labor, busi-ness and governmental crimes,10 6 the enterprise is a more or less for-mal entity, the structure of the section 1962(c) offense is quiteconventional: the prohibited conduct is the commission of the predi-cate acts, with the relation of the crimes to an enterprise serving as anaggravating factual circ*mstance. Like most such aggravating factors(possession of a weapon, causing injury, entry at night), the existence ofthe enterprise and the relation of the criminal conduct to it are rela-tively easily ascertainable, noncontroversial facts.' 0 7

Where the enterprise is an illegitimate association-in-fact, how-ever, the existence of the enterprise is not merely an easily establishedformal element of proof. Rather, the existence of the enterprise is bothpotentially controversial and genuinely significant in legally differenti-

105. It is because of this additional element that RICO has been held to constitutea separate offense from the predicate acts for purposes of the double jeopardy clause.See supra note 93 and accompanying text.

106. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 308-425 and accompanying text.107. It is far from clear, however, why the existence of the enterprise should serve

as an aggravating factor in cases of these kinds. Absent the elusive specter of "infiltra-tion," it is difficult to see why a defendant who commits two frauds in ten years is guiltyof a more serious crime because he did them both while conducting the affairs of thesame corporation.

As we have seen, however, the enterprise element is not itself the reason for theaggravated punishment actually imposed in RICO cases involving legitimate enterprises,but is rather a pretext to permit increased sanctions (or federal jurisdiction) in casesselected by prosecutors as appropriate for increased punishment on other principlesentirely. Id. at notes 308-425 and accompanying text. As argued above, such pretextualdefinitions of offenses should be avoided. See id. at notes 351-59, 388-404 & 404-17and accompanying text; supra notes 12-13 and accompanying text. If penalties for cer-tain offenses are insufficient, they should be raised, either for all offenses in that cate-gory, with judges in their discretion permitted to decide which cases require theirimposition, or for legislatively defined aggravated versions of the offense.

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ating RICO offenses from mere aggregations of predicate crimes. In-deed, it can be argued that the enterprise element constitutes theessence of the crime. Operation of a criminal organization-unlike op-eration of a business corporation-is not morally neutral. Nor is itmerely an incidental fact about the context in which a criminal act wascommitted. Rather, it constitutes a distinct species of social harm.

The arguments made by appellants in Turkette1 08 andElliott 109 illustrate the importance of the enterprise element. In eachcase, the defendants' legal and factual claims were that the governmenthad, at best, shown that various individuals had committed various dis-tinct crimes. In effect, they were asserting the factual accuracy andlegal necessity of applying a transactional view of crime to their variousantisocial acts. The courts rejected this argument, however, holdingthat the whole offense was indeed greater than, or at least distinct from,the sum of its parts-that, at least on the facts of those cases, it waslegitimate to hold the defendants guilty not only of a series of separatecriminal transactions, but of entering into a relationship, exemplifiedby a course of conduct over a period of years, that itself was criminal. Itis the operation of the criminal enterprise through criminal acts, notmerely the commission of the acts themselves, that constitutes thecrime of RICO.

But whether or not a group of individuals, who, in various combi-nations, committed a series of predicate offenses, constituted an enter-prise, and whether each of the defendants was part of that enterprise,are not always questions of historical fact. Where a criminal group hasa sufficiently tangible organization, it may be possible to confirm theexistence of the enterprise, and to identify someone as a "member."' 110

But one need not be a "member" of an organization to participate inthe conduct of its affairs, 11 and, of course, not all illicit enterprises areso conveniently structured. As is often true with the "agreement" thatis the actus reus of conspiracy, the jury is not necessarily being asked todecide whether a particular event occurred. Rather, it is being asked toimpose a conceptual construct on the events that it finds took place. 12

108. United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981).109. United States v. Elliott, 571 F.2d 880 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 953

(1978).110. Remember the Katzenbach Commission's attention to the Mafia's initiation

rites. See Lynch, supra note 1, at note 34; see also United States v. Rubio, 727 F.2d 786(9th Cir. 1984) (search warrant for insignia and other indicia of membership in theHell's Angels).

111. See, e.g., United States v. Yonan, 800 F.2d 164, 167-68 (7th Cir. 1986) (de-fense attorney guilty of participating in affairs of state's attorney's office through patternof bribing prosecutors), cert. denied, 107 S. Ct. 930 (1987).

112. If the issue were one of fact, a competent defendant would at least in theory beable to resolve it. Even if no one else can ever be absolutely certain what happened, themurderer himself will in the ordinary case know that he killed someone, and usually hasprivileged access as well to his own state of mind while acting. (Of course, the mentalstates made relevant by the criminal law are sometimes so precise and subtle that as a

1987] RICO


What the jury is being asked to decide is whether the defendant's actsshould be treated as evidence of a commitment to a criminalassociation.

1 13

Such a commitment is not, in any conventional sense, an "act."The jury's task is to assess in a global way the nature of the defendant'sinvolvement in a network of criminal activities and associations, to de-termine whether the total picture of the defendant's criminal careerpermits the judgment that he has become part of an underworld "en-terprise." If character can be defined as the residue of a series of moraldecisions, the jury in a very real sense is being asked to make a judg-ment on the defendant's character.

In making such ajudgment, the jury is entitled to rely not only onevidence of the defendant's own crimes, but also on evidence of thecrimes of those with whom he is alleged to have thrown in his lot. Suchevidence is excluded from the transaction-model trial, precisely be-cause it may distract the jury from its responsibility of deciding whatthe evidence shows about a particular act. In an illicit-enterprise RICOtrial, it is admitted, precisely because the jury is asked to make a judg-ment not only about what discrete acts the defendant committed at par-ticular moments in time, and what his intention was with respect toeach act at those moments, but also about how those acts fit into hisentire moral life: Were they parts of a pattern? Were they committedas part of his association with a subculture of crime?" 14

RICO illicit association cases thus pose both a substantive and aprocedural challenge to the transaction-based model of criminal law.Substantively, the standard legal texts tell us that a distinct act or omis-sion is the core event constituting a crime,1 15 and academic analyses of

practical matter, a person of ordinary intelligence would have difficulty in accuratelyidentifying and reporting his exact intent, so that the jury in effect must often create,rather than find, an understanding of what "happened.") But the enterprise element issufficiently artificial that a defendant would in many cases be surprised to learn that hewas part of one. And his surprise would not necessarily be a defense; courts have sug-gested that no knowledge or intent with respect to the enterprise element is required forconviction under § 1962(c). See, e.g., United States v. Scotto, 641 F.2d 47, 56 (2d Cir.1980), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 961 (1981). But see United States v. Castellano, 610 F.Supp. 1359, 1398-1402 (S.D.N.Y. 1985).

113. This question is verbally similar to the familiar aiding and abetting instructionthat requires a jury to find that a defendant "in some sort associate himself with theventure, that he participate in it as something he wishes to bring about, that he seek byhis action to make it succeed." United States v. Bommarito, 524 F.2d 140, 145 (2d Cir.1975) (citation omitted). In the ordinary complicity case, however, the "venture" withwhich a defendant is alleged to have associated himself is itself a discrete criminal trans-action and usually (though not always), the accomplice's participation also takes theform of one or more specific acts or omissions.

114. Of course, the risk of prejudice persists, because the only way the jury candetermine the defendant's participation in the enterprise is by assessing the proof aboutindividual acts, and its view of disputed evidence about those acts will no doubt be af-fected by evidence tending to show that the defendant was overall a bad actor.

115. See supra note 73.

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penal codes, including ones that in some ways radically attack the An-glo-American consensus,1 16 are principally concerned with articulatingthe precise circ*mstances in which specified acts should be subject tocondemnation as crimes. The distinctive nature of criminal punish-ment, we are told, is that it represents a societal response to and judg-ment upon particular moral actions, rather than to a person's character,status, or intentions. The RICO illicit association cases, in contrast, de-mand a more global judgment about a defendant's character and loyal-ties. To be found guilty, it is not enough that the defendant hascommitted specific criminal acts; those acts must be part of an ongoingcommitment to the values of a criminal organization.

Our procedural and evidentiary rules support the substantive val-ues of the transaction-based model of crime by rigorously focusing thetrial process on information that bears directly on demonstrating whathappened, in the physical world and in the defendant's consciousness,during the particular transaction under examination. RICO trials, how-ever, permit a much wider exploration of the context of the particularpredicate acts, both in the defendant's history, and within the institu-tions and communities of which he is a part.

F. RICO and Conspiracy

The challenge RICO presents to conventional criminal law think-ing is not without precursors. Indeed, it can be argued that the practi-cal and theoretical problems presented by RICO prosecutions havelong been festering under the law of conspiracy.' 17 There is considera-ble truth to this observation, although for reasons developed below,RICO constitutes a more extreme departure from the traditionalmodel.

In theory, conspiracy, unlike section 1962(c), functions as an in-choate crime, criminalizing an agreement to perform prohibited actswithout regard to the consummation of the criminal plan. If two ormore people sit at a table and expressly agree to rob a bank the nextday, they are guilty of conspiring to rob the bank. 1 18 Structurally, thecrime fits the transaction model: although the "act" of agreeing is asomewhat bloodless one, at least in this simple hypothetical it is clearthat the defendants have done something beyond engaging in antisocial

116. See, e.g., G. Fletcher, supra note 86.117. In fact, ProfessorJohnson's attack on conspiracy law, Johnson, supra note 16,

could be regarded as an attack on RICO avant la lettre.118. Subject to the requirement, in most jurisdictions, that one of the conspirators

take some overt act toward fulfillment of the goal. The overt act requirement does littleto bring conspiracy more squarely within the transaction model. The requirement doesnot even exist in some jurisdictions or for all types of conspiracies, and it is widelyagreed that the agreement itself is the gravamen of the crime of conspiracy. See IModel Penal Code § 5.03 commentary at 452-56 (1985) (discussing overt actrequirement).

1987] RICO


thoughts or having deformed characters. They have taken a particularstep toward accomplishment of social harm that can, at least in theory,be demonstrated to have occurred at a specific time and place.' 19

In practice, however, three principal complicating factors under-mine this theory, and bring conspiracy closer in its effects to RICO.First, even where such a simple express agreement to join in a criminalactivity has been made, direct evidence of such an agreement will notoften be available. 120 Absent an informer or electronic surveillance,the authorities will never know when and where the agreement wasmade, or what were its precise terms. Accordingly, the making of theagreement will ordinarily have to be inferred from the actions of theparties to it. After the bank robbery has occurred, one may determinefrom the apparently planned coordination of the robbers' actions thatan agreement had been made. 121 Moreover, the agreement need notbe express at all-the agreement to commit the crime, though actual,may be made without words.122 This further complicates the difficultyof inferring its terms.

Second, the scope of possible conspiratorial agreements is bothwide and not clearly defined. It is well established that a single conspir-acy can include among its objects the commission of several crimes-either multiple violations of the same statute or violation of several stat-utes. 123 Thus, it is perfectly legitimate to charge defendants with con-spiring not merely to rob one bank, but to rob several, or to rob a bankand buy drugs with the proceeds, or to commit mail fraud, evade taxes,and obstruct justice. Whether the evidence shows one conspiracy withmultiple objects or several distinct conspiracies is essentially a questionof fact: "the precise nature and extent of the conspiracy must be deter-mined by reference to the agreement which embraces and defines itsobjects."' 124

119. I put to one side any question about whether the act described is sufficientlysocially dangerous to warrant prohibition, or (assuming it is) whether an inchoate crimeof this sort should be held, like an attempt, to "merge" into the completed crime if theplan is consummated. See, e.g., Johnson, supra note 16, at 1150-52, 1157-64.

120. Direct Sales Co. v. United States, 319 U.S. 703, 714 (1943); Glasser v. UnitedStates, 315 U.S. 60, 80 (1942). As one court put it, "A conspiracy is seldom born of'open covenants openly arrived at.'" Lacaze v. United States, 391 F.2d 516, 520 (5thCir. 1968).

121. This means that, at least in federal practice, the use of conspiracy to prosecuteinchoate behavior is rather unusual-the offense is usually added to a substantive chargeof a complete offense. See Marcus, Conspiracy: The Criminal Agreement in Theoryand in Practice, 65 Geo. LJ. 925, 930-32 (1977).

122. See, e.g., Interstate Circuit, Inc. v. United States, 306 U.S. 208 (1939).123. Braverman v. United States, 317 U.S. 49, 53 (1942); accord, I Model Penal

Code § 5.03(3) (1985).124. Braverman, 317 U.S. at 53. Because the question of the scope of the conspira-

torial agreement is a question of fact, it has been held to be an issue "singularly well-suited to resolution by thejury." United States v. McGrath, 613 F.2d 361, 367 (2d Cir.1979), cert. denied, 446 U.S. 967 (1980). The issue is so appropriate forjury resolution

[Vol. 87:920946

This would present little problem for traditional theory if we had atape recording of the meeting at which a group of criminals agreed totheir unlawful plan. But when the breadth of potential conspiratorialagreement is combined with the likely reliance on circ*mstantial evi-dence to prove the agreement, and the possibility that the agreementwas only implicit in any event, the concept of agreement begins to loseits moorings. In the context of a typical narcotics conspiracy prosecu-tion, it is plain that all of the participants at various levels of a distribu-tion network have not "agreed," even implicitly, on any precise seriesof actions; at best, various individuals at different levels have agreed toengage in certain specific acts of possession or distribution, with theunderstanding that the acts and agreements of others at other levels arenecessary for the success of their venture. The nature of the requiredagreement has subtly changed from the paradigm with which we began:the typical conspiracy to distribute narcotics does not involve an ex-press agreement to engage in specific acts, but a series of mutually un-connected decisions to engage in a business known to involve a highdegree of mutual interdependence. 125

The requirement of agreement is further diluted by the frequentlyrepeated doctrine that a conspirator does not need to agree to, or evento know about, all of the objects of the conspiracy in order to be liableforjoining it.126 This doctrine is virtually an inevitable consequence ofallowing the formulation of indictments charging conspiracies withmultiple objects that extend over a period of time. It is extremely likelythat the parties to such an agreement will change over time, and thatadherents may be recruited to execute portions of the plan without be-ing made aware of all of its contours. 127 It serves the convenience ofprosecutors and courts to say that these new recruits are "members" of

not because juries are uniquely qualified to understand the complexities of single andmultiple conspiracies or deduce what was in the minds of secretive conspirators, butbecause juries do not have to describe their reasoning and can conveniently be treatedas infallible whatever they conclude.

125. The case most often cited in treatises and casebooks for this proposition isUnited States v. Bruno, 105 F.2d 921 (2d Cir.), rev'd on other grounds, 308 U.S. 287(1939), but it is illustrated daily in federal narcotics prosecutions.

126. United States v. DeLillo, 620 F.2d 939, 948 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S.835 (1980); United States v. Gleason, 616 F.2d 2, 16 (2d Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 445U.S. 931 (1980); United States v. Bernstein, 533 F.2d 775, 792-94 (2d Cir.), cert. de-nied, 429 U.S. 998 (1976).

127. Indeed, those contours themselves often develop and change over time. Asthe drafters of the Model Penal Code have pointed out, if Braverman's emphasis onunity of agreement requires "inquiry into the precise time at which each objective wasconceived, it is unrealistic"-different objectives no doubt evolve over time. 1 ModelPenal Code § 5.03 commentary at 439 (1985). But as with so many other fine questionsabout the scope of conspiracy law, the courts have found a verbal formula to fudge theproblem. "The courts generally avoid such inquiries . . . by finding that the originalagreement subsequently came to 'embrace' additional objects." Id. What this "em-brace" consists of other than a new agreement is unclear.

1987] RICO 947


the conspiracy. But when each conspirator knows only some of the ob-jects of the "agreement," it becomes difficult to see what reality re-mains to the notion of agreement. Moreover, because the overallagreement itself is usually merely an inference from the concrete of-fenses committed by the putative conspirators, what can be found inretrospect to be a single "conspiracy" embracing multiple objects maywell consist merely of a series of crimes united only by rather casuallinks among the perpetrators.

Third, as with RICO, the procedural and evidentiary consequencesdirectly or indirectly associated with a conspiracy charge make conspir-acy charges attractive to prosecutors, and create possibilities ofabuse. 128 Charging that various substantive offenses are objects of aunitary conspiracy usually permits joinder of those offenses in a singletrial, permits selection of a favorable venue, and facilitates introductionof hearsay evidence. 129 These procedural advantages more readily ac-count for the widespread use of conspiracy charges in federal criminalcases than any difference between the substantive elements of conspir-acy and consummated offenses.

When these factors are considered, the widespread assumptionthat RICO vastly expands the ambit of possible conspiracy prosecu-tions130 becomes somewhat puzzling. Let us assume that our hypothet-ical conspirators sitting at the table have more resources, and moreambition, than a handful of potential bank robbers. The proposal onthe table, in consequence, is that the conspirators would pool their ex-isting networks for narcotics distribution, gambling and prostitution;divide up the city into territories in which each would have an exclusivefranchise; intimidate potential informers or complainants by murderand arson; and diversify their activities by infiltrating members of thering into a securities firm in an effort to steal negotiable bonds andlaunder the proceeds of their illicit activities. Had the FBI been re-cording this meeting on a court-authorized "bug," is there any reasonwhy those present at the meeting could not be charged with conspiringto commit a series of state or federal crimes?

128. See, e.g., Krulewitch v. United States, 336 U.S. 440, 445-58 (1949) (Jackson,J., concurring); Johnson, supra note 16, at 1164-88.

129. In fact, the inclusion of a substantive conspiracy charge in an indictment is es-sentially irrelevant to the operation of the rule permitting introduction of co-conspira-tors' hearsay statements, see, e.g., R. Lempert and S. Saltzburg, A Modem Approach toEvidence 394 (2d ed. 1982); Marcus, Co-Conspirator Declarations: The Federal Rulesof Evidence and Other Recent Developments, From a Criminal Law Perspective, 7 Am.J. Grim. L. 287, 288 (1979), but the overlap of the substantive and evidentiary conceptsand lawyers' and judges' occasional ignorance of the distinction make for a commonmisperception that special hearsay rules apply in conspiracy cases.

130. See, e.g., Blakey & Goldstock, "On the Waterfront": RICO and Labor Racke-teering, 17 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 341, 362 (1980); Note, Elliott v. United States: Conspir-acy Law and the Judicial Pursuit of Organized Crime Through RICO, 65 Va. L. Rev. 109(1979).

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There is no readily apparent reason why not. Certainly, the diver-sity of the criminal objects of the conspiracy should not be an obstacle.As noted above, so long as the conspirators have joined in a singlecommon agreement, that agreement can have as its object the violationof several statutes. There is no conceptual reason why an agreement tocommit fraud, evade taxes and obstruct justice should be indictable asconspiracy, while an agreement to spread the net more widely and com-mit a broader range of crimes should not.

United States v. Elliott,131 the decision that popularized the notion ofRICO as a super-conspiracy statute, contains the most extensive judi-cial effort to distinguish between conspiracy law and sections 1962(c)and (d).132 The Elliott court announced that "RICO has displacedmany of the legal precepts traditionally applied to concerted criminalactivity. Its effect in this case is to free the government from the stric-tures of the multiple conspiracy doctrine and to allow the joint trial ofmany persons accused of diversified crimes." 133 But the court's discus-sion of just how this is so is perplexing.

The crux of the court's "doubt that a single conspiracy could bedemonstrated" rests essentially on two observations.13 4 First, the courtpoints out that various subgroups of the alleged conspirators had nocontact with each other.'3 5 But as we have seen, and as the Elliott courtelsewhere concedes, "'a party to a conspiracy need not know the iden-tity, or even the number, of his confederates' "-let alone have directcontact with them.' 3 6 This could hardly be a basis for rejecting a juryfinding of a single conspiracy.

Second, and more significantly, the court states that "[t]he activi-ties allegedly embraced by the illegal agreement in this case are simplytoo diverse to be tied together on the theory that participation in oneactivity necessarily implied awareness of others."' 37 Essentially thecourt here is holding that the prosecution has failed to meet its burden

131. 571 F.2d 880 (5th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 953 (1979).132. Id. at 900-03.133. Id. at 900.134. Id. at 902. One commentator has concluded from the court's earlier discus-

sion of "wheel" and "chain" conspiracies, id. at 900-01, that the court would not havefound a § 371 conspiracy in Elliott because the activities of the defendants fit neither the"wheel" nor the "chain" pattern. Note, supra note 130, at 112-13. But there is norequirement that a conspiratorial agreement fit any particular visual metaphor. AsJudge Friendly noted more than 20 years ago, "As applied to the long-term operation ofan illegal business, the common pictorial distinction between 'chain' and 'spoke' con-spiracies can obscure as much as it clarifies." United States v. Borelli, 336 F.2d 376, 383(2d Cir. 1964), cert. denied, 379 U.S. 960 (1965).

135. Elliott, 571 F.2d at 902 ("Foster had no contact with Delph and Taylor duringthe life of the alleged conspiracy. Delph and Taylor, so far as the evidence revealed, hadno contact with Recea Hawkins.").

136. Id. at 903 (quoting United States v. Andolschek, 142 F.2d 503, 507 (2d Cir.1944)).

137. Id. at 902.

1987] RICO 949


of proving that a single agreement existed. If the government is relyingon inference to show the overall agreement, the inference must be suffi-cient to persuade a reasonable jury beyond a reasonable doubt that thecommon plan existed, and it is not unreasonable to argue that mereproof of a collection of entirely unrelated crimes is insufficient for thispurpose.

But then, how does RICO come "to the [r]escue"? 138 The prob-lem, according to the court, is that in organized crime cases, the needto infer a common agreement "inhibited mass prosecutions because asingle agreement or 'common objective' cannot be inferred from thecommission of highly diverse crimes by apparently unrelated individu-als." 139 The solution is that "RICO helps to eliminate this problem bycreating a substantive offense which ties together these diverse partiesand crimes."' 40 Since the RICO objective is to "participate in the af-fairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity," andnot to commit the particular substantive crimes that serve as the predi-cate acts, the lack of apparent relation between the crimes is irrelevant"so long as we may reasonably infer that each crime was intended tofurther the enterprise's affairs."' 141

This is simply double talk. According to the court's analysis, whatwas missing for conviction of a "traditional" conspiracy was not a le-gally sufficient objective, but evidence sufficient to support a findingthat that objective existed in this particular case. Explaining the inade-quacy of the evidence under conventional conspiracy law, the court hadstated:

Even viewing the "common objective" of the conspiracy as theraising of revenue through criminal activity, we could not say,for example, that Foster, when he helped to conceal stolenmeat, had to know thatJ. C. was selling drugs to persons un-known to Foster, or that Delph and Taylor, when they fur-nished counterfeit titles to a car theft ring, had to know thatthe man supplying the titles was also stealing goods out of in-terstate commerce.1 42

The court thus seems to accept that an agreement to raise revenuethrough miscellaneous criminal activity is indictable as a conspiracy,holding only that the evidence here did not show such an

138. Id.139. Id.140. Id.141. Id. at 902-03. The Elliott court was "convinced" that Congress specifically

intended "to authorize the single prosecution of a multi-faceted, diversified conspiracyby replacing the inadequate 'wheel' and 'chain' rationales with a new statutory concept:the enterprise." Id. at 902. As others have argued, Note, supra note 130, at 121-23,and as demonstrated above, see Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 51-118 and accompanyingtext, the notion that Congress intended this result is pure fantasy.

142. Elliott, 571 F.2d at 902.

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agreement. 1 43

But if there was insufficient proof to infer a single agreement to"rais[e] revenue through criminal activity," how can the proof in turnbe sufficient-as the court says it must be-to permit finding "agree-ment on an overall objective" to "further the enterprise's affairs"? 144

After all, the enterprise in this case consists of nothing other than anassociation to raise revenue by committing crimes.' 45 Conversely, if itis permissible to infer from a defendant's participation in particularconcrete crimes that he simultaneously agreed to participate in the af-fairs of an overarching enterprise, why not just rename the "enter-prise" a "conspiratorial agreement with multiple criminal objects" andinfer his agreement to that?146

Within the court's confusion, however, lurks a truth. Although theborders of permissible conspiracy prosecutions remain unclear, and intheory encompass an agreement to form a gang and commit whatevercrimes the leadership orders, the broad agreement by courts and com-mentators that RICO still somehow expands the range of conduct thatcan be prosecuted as a conspiracy strongly suggests that courts andprosecutors recognized limits, if not on the kinds of agreement thatcould in principle be indicted as conspiracies, at least on the kinds ofcriminal conduct that would be permitted in practice to support an in-ference of a unifying scheme. The Elliott court was no doubt both sin-cere and accurate in stating that it would not have permitted thedefendants there to have been convicted of a simple conspiracy. Andwhatever courts might have accepted if tested, few precedents can befound in "traditional" conspiracy cases for agreements of the breadthand complexity of RICO illicit association cases involving diversifiedcriminal syndicates. 147 RICO thus may be better seen as the occasion

143. The court's conclusion is probably right, although the reason given in thequoted passage is subtly wrong. If the members of the "J.C. Hawkins Gang" had agreedto unite their efforts to produce revenue by committing whatever crimes J.C. coulddream up, it could not matter that when Foster helped conceal the stolen meat, he didnot know thatJ.C. was selling drugs-so long as he had agreed to the overall scheme,the fact that he did not know all the specific objects (or more accurately, the specificmeans by which the unifying object was to be accomplished) would not defeat his liabil-ity for the single conspiracy. See supra notes 126-127 and accompanying text.

144. Elliott, 571 F.2d at 902-03.145. See id. at 904 (defining the "essential nature" of the enterprise as "to associ-

ate for the purpose of making money from repeated criminal activity").146. Thus, the principal problem with the Elliott court's claim to have discovered a

radically new form of conspiracy is not that it is unsupported by the legislative history,Note, supra note 130, at 116-17, or that its expanded notion of conspiracy is undesir-able, id. at 109, Holderman, Reconciling RICO's Conspiracy and Group EnterpriseConcepts with Traditional Conspiracy Doctrine, 52 U. Cin. L. Rev. 385 (1983), but thatit is self-contradictory.

147. The continuing, and even increasing, prosecution of cases like Castellano dem-onstrates that Holderman was premature in suggesting in 1983 that a retreat from Elliottwas at hand. Holderman, supra note 146, at 393-402. While the enthusiastically expan-sionist rhetoric of Elliott may find little reflection in later cases, opinions such as United

19871 RICO


for a change in judicial and prosecutorial policy than as a provider ofnew theoretical concepts.

Three points need to be made about this analysis, however. First,the change in policy itself is significant. Whether RICO conspiraciesinvolve the recognition of a new conspiratorial objective or greater lati-tude for prosecutors to charge and juries to find agreements that-hadthey been express and proven by direct evidence-would always havebeen recognized as illegal conspiracies, the prosecutions that result aredistinctly broader than had previously been undertaken. Earlier con-spiracies, however large and long-lasting they were alleged to be, typi-cally were bounded by a single type of illegal activity (such as narcoticsor gambling) or by an easily described intermediate-range objective in-volving a continuous flow of activity (such as conspiracies to commitsecurities fraud and evade taxes, or to hijack trucks, kidnap drivers, andbribe policemen). RICO prosecutions, as we have seen, have not beenso limited.

Second, by incorporating state crimes as predicate activity, RICOdoes in fact expand the range of criminal objects that can be prosecutedin a single federal prosecution. Yoking the plenary subject matter juris-diction of the states to the plenary geographic jurisdiction of the fed-eral government permits unification of offenses that could notpreviously have been brought together in a conspiracy prosecution inany jurisdiction. This is particularly significant in organized crimecases, where it permits unified prosecution of multiple crimes of vio-lence that would previously have been regarded as unrelated.

Third, by creating a substantive offense worded in terms of acourse of conduct, RICO constitutes a theoretical break with the trans-actional model of crime. Section 1962(c) explicitly recognizes a crimethat can be described as a course of conduct involving relationshipswith criminal groups, rather than as a single moral act. Although con-spiracy prosecutions in practice permit presentation of a course of con-

States v. Anderson, 626 F.2d 1358 (8th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 912 (1981),cited by Holderman as examples of a counter-trend toward restricting the types of illegalenterprise that could be prosecuted under RICO, have not met with widespread ap-proval. See infra notes 205-08 and accompanying text. Courts continue to maintainthat they are approving convictions for RICO violations on facts that they would nothave allowed to support a traditional conspiracy conviction. See, e.g., United States v.Watchmaker, 761 F.2d 1459 (11th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 879 (1986);United States v. Aimone, 715 F.2d 822 (3d Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 468 U.S. 1217(1984).

In any case, as we have seen, the verbal formulae of Elliott are less novel or impor-tant than its substantive willingness to tolerate broadly framed RICO indictments oflarge, relatively amorphous criminal associations with multiple purposes. Cases like An-derson, which involved minor corruption in the purchasing and contracting activities oftwo different Arkansas counties, are not especially relevant to this issue. The many or-ganized crime family cases that continue to be brought show that whether or not thecolorful but confusing language of Elliott retains any influence, its spirit is alive and well.

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duct in a single trial, in theory at least the crime remains defined interms of a single act of agreement.

This conceptual change may have practical consequences. How-ever attenuated the concept of agreement becomes in the actual admin-istration of conspiracy law, the need to anchor the crime in ahypothetical instant of agreement may have helped courts to maintainsome boundary around the kind of conduct that would be permitted tobe tried as a unitary conspiracy. The fiction that all of the crimescharged were part of a specific agreement could only be maintained if itplausibly could be imagined that the core players at least could have sattogether and agreed-even if it was clear that they did not in the partic-ular instance do so. "Participation in the affairs of an enterprise" moreaccurately captures the reality of what fringe participants in a conspir-acy do than "agreeing" to the overall objectives of its core members,and therefore permits easier inferences of guilt.

While the Elliott court was concerned with the relation between or-dinary conspiracies and RICO conspiracies under section 1962(d), theeffect of sections 1962(c) and 1962(d) in these respects is essentiallyidentical. Indeed, the difficulty of distinguishing between section1962(c) and section 1962(d) in illicit association cases reflects the radi-cal difference between those cases and other RICO violations.

A single individual can violate section 1962(a) or (b) or (c) in thecontext of a legitimate enterprise, without the aid of accomplices. Aconspiracy to violate these sections therefore reflects a comprehensibleconcept and, subject to the debate about whether conspiracy ever iden-tifies a harm distinct from the substantive offense that is its object, con-stitutes a distinct crime. In the illicit enterprise cases, however, theoverlap between the completed and conspiracy offense is total. At leastif a single criminal cannot be both an enterprise and a defendant, 148 thecriminal enterprise whose affairs are conducted through a pattern ofracketeering can only exist to the extent its members have agreed toform it. Each individual member, moreover, can only be guilty of con-ducting his affairs through a pattern of racketeering to the extent thathe knows that his particular crimes are part of a larger criminal enter-prise with which he has voluntarily associated himself-precisely themental state required to join the RICO conspiracy.' 49

148. United States v. DiCaro, 772 F.2d 1314, 1319-20 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied,106 S. Ct. 1458 (1986). See Lynch, supra note 1, at note 229.

149. The statement found in some opinions that § 1962(c) requires no mental ele-ment beyond that required to commit the predicate offenses, see, e.g., United States v.Biasucci, 786 F.2d 504, 512 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 107 S. Ct. 104 (1986); United Statesv. Scotto, 641 F.2d 47, 56 (2d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 961 (1981); UnitedStates v. Boylan, 620 F.2d 359, 361-62 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 833 (1980), maymake sense in the context of a legitimate organization, where the corruption of a legiti-mate institution is merely a byproduct of the commission of the predicate crimes, and inany case is necessarily known to the actor. But to hold that a defendant in an illicitenterprise case need not know that his crimes have any relevance to a broader enterprise

1987] RICO


This overlap does not mean that courts were wrong to reject thearguments that section 1962(d) is an incoherent effort to penalize "con-spiring to conspire,"' 50 or that multiple punishment for violating sec-tions 1962(c) and (d) violates the double jeopardy clause. 15 Aninchoate conspiracy to violate section 1962(c) is a comprehensiblecrime, if one rarely to be encountered. Had they been arrested imme-diately after their conclave, the conspirators deciding to found an or-ganized crime syndicate hypothesized above would have violatedsection 1962(d), but not section 1962(c).152 And so long as theBlockberger rule is applied at the level of abstract elements of the offenserather than in the context of the facts of a particular case,153 it remainstrue that section 1962(c) is a separate offense from section 1962(d) be-cause an agreement is not a formal element of the substantive offense.But it does mean that in the context of illicit enterprise prosecutions,the prohibition of conspiracies serves no purpose and should not beincluded in a modified statute.

Traditional conspiracy law, in short, is an important precursor ofRICO, and indeed in theory might well encompass many of the resultsthat have been reached with that statute. The limits of traditional con-spiracy law are to be found not in the types of goals that a conspirato-rial agreement could in theory have, but in judicial policing of theinferences that would be drawn from participation in various kinds ofcrimes. Within those limits, conspiracy law has fostered an erosion ofthe transaction model of criminal law and criminal procedure. LikeRICO, conspiracy permits prosecutors to present complex events in asingle criminal proceeding, and to avoid focusing on particular, identi-fiable acts or transactions.1 54 But RICO has been the vehicle by which

would be to strip the enterprise element, which is the essence of the separate RICOoffense, of any meaning. See United States v. Castellano, 610 F. Supp. 1359, 1398-1402(S.D.N.Y. 1985).

150. See, e.g., United States v. Clemente, 640 F.2d 1069, 1081 (2d Cir.), cert. de-nied, 454 U.S. 820 (1981); United States v. Diecidue, 603 F.2d 535, 546 (5th Cir. 1979),cert. denied, 445 U.S. 946 (1980).

151. United States v. Callanan, 810 F.2d 544 (6th Cir. 1987); United States v. Phil-lips, 664 F.2d 971, 1004-15 (5th Cir. Unit B Dec. 1981), cert. denied, 457 U.S. 1136(1982). But cf. United States v. Qaoud, 777 F.2d 1105, 1118-19 (6th Cir. 1985).

152. See text following note 130 supra. This would be true even if one of the con-spirators had not agreed that he personally would commit more than one predicate act.It is not necessary that a conspirator agree that he personally will commit the acts neces-sary to make him liable for the substantive offense. The majority view on this issue istherefore correct. See United States v. Adams, 759 F.2d 1099, 1116 (3d Cir.), cert. de-nied, 106 S. Ct. 336 (1985); United States v. Carter, 721 F.2d 1514, 1529-31 (1 lth Cir.),cert. denied, 469 U.S. 819 (1984); United States v. Brooklier, 685 F.2d 1208, 1220 (9thCir. 1982), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1206 (1983). Contra, United States v. Ruggiero, 726F.2d 913, 921 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 831 (1984); United States v. Winter, 663F.2d 1120, 1136 (1st Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1011 (1983).

153. Brown v. Ohio, 432 U.S. 161, 166 (1977); Blockberger v. United States, 284U.S. 299, 304 (1932). But see Illinois v. Vitale, 447 U.S. 410, 419-21 (1980).

154. A few other statutes deserve mention in this respect, though all, because of

954 [Vol. 87:920

courts have considerably expanded those limits, and thus permittedstill greater departures from the transaction model.

G. The RICO Model Evaluated

1. The Challenge to Substantive Law. - Much of the criticism of RICOimplicitly assume the immutable validity of the conventional model ofcriminal law and procedure; the critics apparently believe that to notethe ways in which RICO departs from the conventional is sufficient tocondemn it. 155 But the transaction-based model of criminal law is notbeyond challenge. To evaluate the legitimacy of the RICO illicit enter-prise cases, we must question why we have that model, whether weabide by it in practice, and what it costs us to preserve it.

One value served by the transaction model of crime is its preclu-sion of punishment in the absence of behavior manifesting a concretethreat of harm to legitimate social interests. The notion that a defend-ant is being punished merely for his character or status, or for the dan-ger that he potentially represents, is often said to be offensive to ourconcepts of fairness.' 56 A person may be a seething mass of antisocialideas, repulsive character traits, dangerous tendencies, and even con-crete evil plans, but he is neither a criminal nor subject to punishmentuntil he commits specific proscribed acts. Even if society might gain byengaging in preemptive strikes against such villains, it is essential to theliberty and security of ordinary citizens that government not be permit-ted to deprive them of freedom unless they violate clearly definednorms. "Character" or "predicted danger" are flexible and unpredict-able standards of decision, too easily used as tools of oppression.

These substantive concerns, however, are not directly violated byRICO. Although the distinguishing features of RICO are its somewhatamorphous associational and course of conduct elements, a fundamen-tal prerequisite of a substantive RICO violation is the commission ofparticular criminal acts. These predicate racketeering acts are them-selves conventional, transactionally defined crimes, requiring the com-mission of particular conduct for their violation. RICO does not permit

their subject matter limitations, are far less radical than RICO. The continuing gam-bling and narcotics enterprise statutes, 18 U.S.C. § 1955 (1982) and 21 U.S.C. § 848(1982), provide enhanced penalties for engaging in specified types of continuous in-volvement in crimes of those kinds. And one of the many attractions of the mail andwire fraud statutes, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341, 1343 (1982), to government attorneys is un-doubtedly the latitude they permit in framing the fraudulent scheme alleged. Thescheme can be as narrow as cheating a particular person in a single transaction, or asbroad as running a pervasively fraudulent financial enterprise.

155. Tarlow's thorough and thoughtful articles, Tarlow, RICO Revisited, 17 Ga. L.Rev. 291 (1983); Tarlow, RICO: The New Darling of the Prosecutor's Nursery, 49 Ford-ham L. Rev. 165 (1980), are essentially of this type.

156. See, e.g., United States v. Salerno, 794 F.2d 64 (2d Cir. 1986) (holding uncon-stitutional as a violation of due process preventive detention of criminal defendants toassure community safety), cert. granted, 107 S. Ct. 397 (1987).

1987] RI'CO 955


a person to be convicted on the basis of his thoughts, tendencies, inten-tions, or character alone; defined and concrete antisocial acts are a partof the definition of the crime.

A comparison with the unconstitutional statute in Robinson v.California 157 is instructive. California law made it a crime to be a narcot-ics addict, without requiring any particular narcotics-related action.The Supreme Court's opinion could be read as suggesting two possiblegrounds for finding this statute offensive: the absence of a concreteproscribed act and the defendant's arguable inability to control his ac-tions. We now know that the first of these grounds was controlling;nothing in the Robinson principle precludes punishment of the addict'spossession or use of narcotics.1 58 The critical defect of the statute wasthat it did not require proof that the defendant had actually done any-thing within the state's boundaries.

RICO does not contravene the Robinson principle. It is not a crimeunder section 1962(c) to have the character or status of a racketeer, butto be a racketeer who commits acts of racketeering. Nor would RICO raisethe problems associated with the second branch of the Robinson case.To the extent that the elements of association with an illicit enterpriseand pattern of criminal conduct define a "status" of "racketeer," that"status" is neither passive (unlike addiction, it cannot be acquired inutero or by medical treatment) nor uncontrollable (unlike addiction,continued involvement in the criminal enterprise is not the product ofphysiological compulsion).

Nevertheless, RICO does make aspects of a defendant's back-ground and associations an aggravating factor in a defined crime. Butour law has never held that such factors are irrelevant to the quantumof punishment that can be administered to one who has violated con-crete norms. The practical operation of law enforcement, in fact, fre-quently aims to do precisely what a purely retributive model of criminallaw tells us is illegitimate: to punish based on character and propensityrather than on the condemnation of specific actions. Considerations of"character" and "danger to the community," often said to be banishedfrom the definition of criminal conduct, pervade the critical discretion-ary decisions of all three of the agencies responsible for applying thosedefinitions: prosecutors, juries, and sentencing judges.1 59

157. 370 U.S. 660 (1962).158. Powell v. Texas, 392 U.S. 514 (1968) (plurality opinion); United States v.

Moore, 486 F.2d 1139 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 980 (1973). See Greenawalt,"Uncontrollable" Actions and the Eighth Amendment: Implications of Powell v. Texas,69 Colum. L. Rev. 927 (1969).

159. While such considerations are rarely directly invoked in definitions of crimes(though they sometimes are, as in laws prohibiting possession of weapons by ex-felons),it may well be argued that they implicitly give shape to important substantive criminallaw doctrines. The doctrine of provocation in the law of homicide, for example, mayreflect a judgment about the character of the offender in such a case as much as aboutthe gravity of a particular act. Providing a complete defense in cases of duress may

[Vol. 87:920956

A defendant's prior criminal acts and associations with organizedcriminal groups, as well as all sorts of more amorphous features of hischaracter, are permissible factors for a judge to take into account inimposing sentence, and are regularly used for that purpose.1 60 Thecurrent discontent with broad judicial sentencing discretion does not,for the most part, dispute the wisdom of basing sentencing decisions onthe character of the offender as well as of the offense; rather, the goal isto reduce the perceived unfair disparity of sentencing by systematizingthe value to be assigned to various factors. 16' The Supreme Court'srecent death penalty jurisprudence, indeed, requires capital sentencingto take account of a broad range of mitigating factors. 162

The acceptability of such considerations in the exercise ofprosecutorial discretion and jury nullification is less well documented,since those discretionary features of the system are even less subject toappellate oversight than sentencing. But any experienced plea-bar-gainer knows that a defendant's prior record is a critical determinant ofthe treatment the defendant will be offered.' 63 Nor is this practicehighly controversial. Few would condemn a prosecutor for offering le-niency to a young bank teller with no criminal record and a stable back-ground who embezzled a sum of money, while insisting on prosecutinganother teller who had committed a similar act, but who had prior con-

reflect an assessment of the character, and predictive assumptions about the danger tothe community, of someone who commits an unjustified criminal act only under extremepressure, more than an assessment that the actor was blameless. For a discussion of therole of evidence of character in proving offenses, see Uviller, Evidence of Character toProve Conduct: Illusion, Illogic, and Injustice in the Courtroom, 130 U. Pa. L. Rev. 845(1982).

160. 18 U.S.C. § 3661 (Supp. III 1985) (formerly § 3577; new section number ef-fective Nov. 1, 1987) ("No limitation shall be placed on the information concerning thebackground, character, and conduct of a person convicted of an offense which a court ofthe United States may receive and consider for the purpose of imposing an appropriatesentence."); Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241 (1949).

161. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 991(b) (Supp. III 1985) (purposes of United States Sen-tencing Commission). While some academic questioning of the relevance of characterto sentencing has taken place, see supra note 86 and accompanying text, serious legisla-tive reform proposals have all taken the character of the offender, at least as reflected byprior convictions, into account. See, e.g., 28 U.S.C. § 994(d) (Supp. III 1985) (Sentenc-ing Commission to consider relevance of various elements of background and charac-ter); New York State Comm. on Sentencing Guidelines, Determinate Sentencing Reportand Recommendations 6 (1985) (severity of crime and prior conviction record of of-fender as "cornerstones" of proposed presumptive sentencing structure); see also 28C.F.R. § 2.20 (1986) (parole guidelines based on offense severity and offendercharacteristics).

162. Eddings v. Oklahoma, 455 U.S. 104 (1982); Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586(1978).

163. Indeed, the Justice Department's guidelines for the exercise of prosecutorialdiscretion explicitly identify the defendant's criminal history and personal circ*mstancesas important factors bearing on the decision to institute prosecution. United StatesDep't of Justice, Principles of Federal Prosecution, U.S. Attorneys' Manual § 9-27.230(B)(5), (6) (1984).

1987] RICO


victions and who was believed to be a member of a youth gang. Suchdiscretion is clearly not based on the relevance of the prior conduct toany element of the potential charge,'" but on a substantive judgmentabout the seriousness to be attributed to the defendant's misconduct inlight of a factual context beyond the temporally and spatially limitedtransaction with which the penal code is concerned.

Jurors' exercise of their power to enter a verdict of acquittalnotwithstanding the facts and the law is an even murkier topic, 165 but itseems clear that a conviction is less likely if the jury is not persuadedthat the defendant is a bad actor who deserves condemnation. Cer-tainly this is the practical belief of most prosecutors and defense attor-neys. Trial lawyers devote considerable effort to influencing the jury'sperception of a defendant's character. Apparently these efforts pay off.Studies ofjury behavior indicate that jurors' reactions to the character-istics of the defendant play a major role in explaining verdict disagree-ment between judges and juries. 166

The importance of these considerations to the substantive con-cerns of the criminal law is obvious. The protection of the public fromcriminal conduct is a central purpose of organized society. Given thesubstantial evidence that a large proportion of the criminal acts arecommitted by a relatively small number of repeat offenders,16 7 it makessense to single out such offenders for special attention from prosecu-tors, investigators and sentencers. Organized criminal groups in par-ticular make possible the infliction of greater harm than can becommitted by individuals. 168 Critics of conspiracy law have justlypointed out that this "group danger" argument does not provide a suf-ficient rationale for the separate punishment of every agreement cov-

164. For example, it is not based on the likely factual accuracy of a defendant'sclaim that money had been taken by mistake.

165. See, e.g., the extended discussion by Judges Leventhal and Bazelon in UnitedStates v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113 (D.C. Cir. 1972).

166. H. Kalven and H. Zeisel, The American Jury 193-218 (1966).167. See, e.g., Cohen, Incapacitation as a Strategy for Crime Control: Possibilities

and Pitfalls, in Crime and Justice 1 (M. Tonry & N. Morris eds. 1983); M. Moore, S.Estrich, D. McGillis & W. Spelman, Dangerous Offenders 23-62 (1984); United StatesDep't ofJustice, Uniform Crime Reports-1974 46-48 (1975), reprinted in I L. Radzi-nowicz & M. Wolfgang, Crime andJustice 151-55 (2d ed. 1977); D. West, Delinquency71-96 (1982); M. Wolfgang, R. Figlio & T. Sellin, Delinquency in a Birth Cohort (1972);Wolfgang, Crime in a Birth Cohort, 117 Proc. Am. Phil. Soc'y 404 (1973).

168. The classic formulation of this argument is to be found in the SupremeCourt's decision in Callanan v. United States, 364 U.S. 587, 593-94 (1961):

Group association for criminal purposes often, if not normally, makes possiblethe attainment of ends more complex than those which one criminal could ac-complish. Nor is the danger of a conspiratorial group limited to the particularend toward which it has embarked. Combination in crime makes more likelythe commission of crimes unrelated to the original purpose for which the groupwas formed. In sum, the danger which a conspiracy generates is not confinedto the substantive offense which is the immediate aim of the enterprise.

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ered by the conspiracy concept. 169 But many of the RICO illicitassociation cases exemplify precisely the sort of case in which even thecritics implicitly acknowledge that the "group danger" argument makessense.1 70 Many of the crimes charged in those cases could not havebeen committed without the existence of an organized enterprise.

Moreover, criminal punishment is not only aimed at controlling orreducing the tangible harms that flow from particular forms of antiso-cial conduct. An important function of criminal justice is the reinforce-ment of the solidarity of the law-abiding community by the formalcondemnation of offenders. 17' This function is most effectively servedwhere it is manifest that the criminal being punished is not merely aperson who has committed a single mistake, but someone who canplausibly be cast as a person of deeply flawed character who has chosento live outside the value system of the dominant group.

This last perception, indeed, may be particularly relevant to thewrong committed by organized criminals. Professor Fletcher has ar-gued strongly that recidivist criminals should not be punished more se-verely than first-offenders out of resentment towards theirrebelliousness. Unlike parents of defiant teenagers, he contends,lawmakers in a liberal society "are not entitled to react to a 'persistent'criminal as though their personal authority were challenged."'' 72 But acriminal who chooses to give his allegiance to the code of the Mafiarather than to the code of civil society17 is not merely challenging the"personal authority" of lawmakers.' 74 He is inflicting a deep injury onthe social fabric, both by declaring his own intent to prey upon those

169. See, e.g.,Johnson, supra note 16, at 1151; Marcus, supra note 121, at 930-38.170. Professor Johnson acknowledges, for example, that "[u]ndoubtedly some

criminal combinations are more dangerous than individual criminals," and cites theBrown Commission's "Organized Crime Leadership" statute, see Lynch, supra note 1,at note 121, and infra note 215 and accompanying text, as an example of a "more dis-criminating" way of taking account of this danger. Johnson, supra note 16, at 1151-52;see also Marcus, supra note 121, at 934 ("the group danger argument is correct in manycases").

171. The distinctive importance of this function was emphasized by Emile Durk-heim. SeeJ. Inverarity, P. Lauderdale & B. Feld, Law and Society: Sociological Per-spectives on the Criminal Law 126-60 (1983) (examining Durkheim's thesis); G. Vold &T. Bernard, Theoretical Criminology 147-50 (3d ed. 1986) (same).

172. G. Fletcher, supra note 86, at 464-66.173. Recall the Katzenbach Commission's description of organized crime as "a so-

ciety that seeks to operate outside the control of the American people and their govern-ments." President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration ofJustice, The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society 187 (1967); President's Commissionon Law Enforcement and the Administration ofJustice, Task Force Report: OrganizedCrime 1 (1967).

174. Even in the case of the ordinary recidivist, of course, what is at stake is not thepersonal authority of the lawmakers, but the collective authority of the polity in whosename the laws are made. In the ordinary case, however, I would agree with ProfessorFletcher that enhanced punishment of repeat offenders must be justified in terms ofpredictive and protective goals rather than by any such "defiance rationale."

1987] RICO


who agree to live within the law and by challenging the law-abidingcitizen's belief that adherence to the norms of society is required, pro-tected, and rewarded.

For the criminal justice system to reinforce adhesion to socialnorms, it must not only distinguish those to be condemned from ordi-nary citizens who merely yield to temptation, it must also actually andforcefully condemn those it finds worthy of condemnation. Little ismore debilitating to the willingness of ordinary citizens to live withinthe law than a perception that persistent violators of the law are unpun-ished. In the area of organized crime, the disparity between social real-ity and legal reality can become particularly acute, as the legal systemstrives to isolate a defendant's particular acts from their personal andsocial context. Respect for law is hardly fostered when the legal systemmyopically focuses on isolated, perhaps minor, offenses of individualswhose entire lives make plain their complete commitment to a career oforganized lawbreaking.

If facts extrinsic to a particular criminal transaction are significantto the proper operation of the criminal justice system, it is not clearwhy they should be confined to the shadows of its "discretionary" com-ponents. Delineation of society's official code of morality is one pur-pose of a penal code, and the character of the offender is clearlyirrelevant to this purpose. But a penal code also shares the purposes ofthe law enforcement system of which it is a part.1 75 So long as the val-ues protected by the requirement that concrete conduct be a part of thedefinition of crime are preserved, there is no special reason why factorsrelating to the defendant's character and associations should not be in-cluded in the definition of crimes.

Rather, removing these factors from the shadows of discretionarydecisionmaking can serve valuable ends. If there is broad social agree-ment that considering the context of violations is legitimate, 176 makingthat consideration explicit can only increase public understanding andapproval of the system. Moreover, express inclusion of aggravating cir-c*mstances based on professional criminality furthers the goal of con-sistent and accurate decisionmaking, by subjecting allegations oforganized crime involvement to the same procedural safeguards asother factors bearing on guilt. There is no procedural regularity at allto a prosecutor's determination that a particular defendant is associ-ated with organized crime; ajury's judgment of character in a trial fromwhich evidence going beyond the transaction at issue is in principle ex-cluded can only be fragmentary and unreliable, and even a judge's fact-finding at sentencing is required to meet only minimal procedural stan-dards. If membership in organized crime is relevant to ourjudgment of

175. See, e.g., I Model Penal Code § 1.02(1) (1985).176. See supra notes 159-166 and accompanying text.

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a defendant, engaging that issue in a public trial process, subject toordinary procedural safeguards, is not in principle inappropriate.

2. The Challenge to Criminal Procedure. - From the perspective of thetraditional model of criminal prosecution-especially the perspective ofdefense attorneys within that tradition-it is difficult to see RICO trialsof the illicit association type as anything but abominations. As de-scribed above, 177 the definition of the elements of a RICO violation ofthis type leads inexorably, by application of the ordinary rules of evi-dence and procedure, to the undermining of the principles underlyingthose rules, and the reversal of their ordinary consequences. Thus, forexample, rules requiring that evidence be relevant to some element ofthe particular offense charged in the indictment ordinarily exclude evi-dence of a defendant's membership in unpopular organizations, forfear that the jury will be prejudiced against a defendant who has beeninvolved with dissident groups or unsavory associates. In an illicit en-terprise RICO case, these rules will instead permit evidence of the de-fendant's associations, and of criminal activity conducted by hisassociates, in order to prove the existence of an enterprise, and thedefendant's participation in its affairs.

This is not merely upsetting to those accustomed to the old order;if one credits the intuitions of virtually all experienced professionals inthis area, it seriously alters the likelihood that defendants will be con-victed. Defense attorneys regularly seek severance of their clients' tri-als from those of other defendants, attack the joinder of separateoffenses in the same indictment and argue for the exclusion of evidenceof uncharged crimes previously committed by the defendant, out of thewell-founded belief that juries will more easily convict defendants theybelieve are frequent offenders or associates of other criminals. Prose-cutors, presumably out of the same belief, typically resist such effortsand seek opportunities to join charges or defendants and to offer evi-dence of other crimes, whenever the rules arguably permit. 178 To theextent that RICO offers prosecutors greatly expanded opportunities topresent evidence of multiple crimes in the same trial, the illicit-enter-

177. See supra notes 98-104 and accompanying text.178. The extent of this concern is illustrated by United States v. Ellison, 793 F.2d

942 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 107 S. Ct. 415 (1986), where the defendant, the leader of awhite supremacist, anti-Semitic organization called "the Covenant, the Sword and theArm of the Lord" offered to stipulate that the organization constituted an "enterprise"within the meaning of § 1961(4), in an effort to preclude the government from offeringevidence of criminal conduct not charged in the indictment, and apparently not commit-ted by the defendant, including the burning of a Jewish community center. The courtsrefused to require the government to stipulate, holding that the government was enti-tled to offer such evidence to prove the existence of the enterprise (subject to the usualbalance of probative value and unfair prejudice), and that the government had a right"to present to the jury a complete picture of the events constituting the crime charged"rather than accept a mere "'naked admission.'" Id. at 949 (quoting United States v.Peltier, 585 F.2d 314, 324 (8th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 945 (1979)).

1987] RICO


prise indictment can be criticized for effectively overriding the variousrules of evidence and procedure that have been devised for the specificpurpose of regulating this conflict. 179

From the standpoint of the transaction model of crime, this criti-cism of RICO is entirely justified, for as we have seen, the rules beingundermined by RICO are the consequences and guardians of thatmodel. If the purpose of the criminal code is to state society's definitivemoral judgment about certain forms of behavior and provide for thepunishment of those who commit acts judged to be prohibited, the onlyrelevant evidence at a trial can be that which bears upon the existenceof the factors determined by the penal code to be morally relevant.While it does not follow inexorably from this view that evidence of adefendant's character, associations or behavior on other occasionsshould be excluded,180 the argument that such evidence would unfairlydistort the finding of facts about the episode to be judged is a verypowerful one in a system conceived on this model.

179. One must be careful, however, about the tendency to romanticize these proce-dural rules. In attacking the use of conspiracy indictments to override normal proce-dural rules, Professor Johnson argues generally that these procedural issues should besettled on their own terms, rather than being preempted by a charge of conspiracy.Johnson, supra note 16, at 1171 ("[I]t would be better for the courts to look to thepolicies and interests that underliejoinder rather than to the substantive law of conspir-acy."), 1182 ("Exceptions to the normal operation of the statute of limitations should bemade in that statute itself .... ). But this may presuppose clearer notions about thepolicies underlying these procedural rules than in fact exist, not to mention judges withmore leisure and information to assess the likely results of procedural determinationsthan we can pragmatically expect. Thus, since the existence of a common scheme is thekey, as Professor Johnson acknowledges, both to joinder of defendants and to the sub-stantive law of conspiracy, id. at 1167-68, it hardly seems that betterjoinder decisionswould be promoted if courts made them without reference to the presence of conspiracycharges. Similarly, ProfessorJohnson argues that conspiracy principles should continueto govern venue decisions even if there were no crime of conspiracy. Id. at 1179. Theseobservations do not contradict Professor Johnson's principal claim, which is that theexistence of conspiracy as a separate crime is unnecessary to accomplish the varioussocial benefits claimed for it. But they may explain the lack of practical bite to his sug-gestions. If the rules of procedure that are undermined by conspiracy law do not them-selves yield predictable, sound results at variance with the result reached throughconspiracy law, there is little reason to restore them by abolishing conspiracy. It may bethat the best rule of thumb for judges to apply, at a point when they have little knowl-edge of the evidence to be presented, in deciding whether crimes should be tried to-gether is the prosecutor's ability to argue with a straight face that the crimes can all beseen as the products of a single agreement.

180. Anyone who believes, as an empirical matter, that a person is likely to behavemore or less consistently over time must concede that such behavior is relevant to as-sessing the likelihood that the person behaved in that manner on a particular occasion.The strength of any inference to be drawn, the empirical likelihood that jurors will mis-calculate that strength or decrease the degree of their concern for finding facts accu-rately if aware that a defendant has done other bad things, the balance between thevalue of such information and its dangers, and the extent to which judges or legislatorsshould impose their views about these questions on jurors, are all matters subject topossible disagreement.

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Modem techniques of criminal investigation, however, particularlyin the investigation of organized crime, have put increasing pressure onthe traditional trial. To some extent, the popular model of criminalinvestigation, like the academic model of the penal code, is transaction-based. The job of the police is to investigate incidents reported tothem, with the goal of determining, if possible, who committed the actscomplained of and whether in all the circ*mstances the incident consti-tutes a crime. The inquiry of the investigator is thus in important re-spects parallel to the inquiry of the student of substantive criminal law,in that the decision whether sufficient evidence exists to make an arrestis predicated on the elements determined by the legislature as justify-ing punishment.

But in fact the investigation of organized criminal groups typicallydoes not proceed in an incident-related pattern. The police rarely get acomplaint that a particular sale of narcotics has occurred at a particularplace and time; even if they did, prosecution of that transaction mightbe difficult.181 Moreover, even if a retrospective investigation of such acomplaint might prove successful, law enforcement strategy againstsome forms of crime may well call for more information than that re-quired to convict for a particular episode.' 8 2

Thus, in the investigation of some types of crime, proof of the par-ticular incident may be only the starting point of an investigation. Thegoal may be not merely to convict the defendant of the particular of-fense that was the basis of the complaint, but to use the complaint as aspringboard to investigate the suspect's affairs to determine whether alarger set of charges should be brought, or whether other defendantsshould be charged. Indeed, police and prosecutors have begun to formspecial "career criminal" units to single out for intensive investigationcrimes charged against defendants thought to be responsible for large

181. There is, of course, no theoretical barrier to prosecutions for sale of narcoticsbased on retrospective eye-witness testimony. That is, after all, the same type of evi-dence usually relied on in robbery or assault cases. Perhaps because the only witnessesusually available to such crimes are themselves participants in the crime (and thereforepresumably discreditable), or perhaps because juries are accustomed to more unim-peachable proof (e.g., tape recordings, undercover agent testimony, seized narcotics),such prosecutions are uncommon.

182. For example, discretion may routinely be exercised to decline to prosecutesmall-scale narcotics sales by persons who are themselves addicts, if they agree to enter atreatment program. A minor narcotics dealer or a businessman who bribed a govern-ment official may be more valuable as an informant concerning other criminal activitieshe is aware of than as a defendant in a single-count indictment. Further investigation ofthe perpetrator may well be called for in order to assure appropriate punishment: be-cause judges base sentencing decisions in part on their understanding of the defendant'scharacter and the degree of his involvement in crime, it may be inadvisable to prosecuteeven a major dealer for a minor offense, unless the prosecution can document additionaloffenses.

1987] RICO 963


numbers of crimes.' 88

Modem investigative methods are congenial to this sort of investi-gation. The use of informers or undercover agents, or the implantingof electronic surveillance devices, is not calculated primarily to developevidence relating to a specific past transaction under investigation;more commonly, such tactics will result in police monitoring of theongoing activities of persons as they commit a series of crimes over aperiod of time. Some scholars and law enforcement officials have re-ferred to such investigative techniques as "proactive," to distinguishthem from the "reactive" nature of techniques designed to uncover evi-dence of a past crime known to the police. 184

When law enforcement officials investigate in this manner, how-ever, their perspective on crime changes. Traditional police methodslead the detective to see a bank robbery, for example, from the perspec-tive of the bank teller-as an eruption of deviant behavior into the ordi-nary life of society, to be traced to its source in some particularindividual. Thus, the "reactive" investigation reinforces, as well as de-rives from, the transaction model of crime. But the investigator whoobserves the development of a criminal plan by means of infiltration orelectronic surveillance sees the crime from the perspective of the per-petrator-as part of an ongoing enterprise of criminal activity con-ducted by the defendant on a regular basis.

The transaction-oriented trial is capable of presenting "the facts"in a way that satisfies the traditional detective, since it conforms to thepreconceptions, the methods, and the results of his investigation. Butthe "proactive" investigator no longer sees a trial that explores theevents of any one particular transaction as providing a satisfactory ac-

183. See W. Gay, Targeting Law Enforcement Resources: The Career Criminal Fo-cus (1985).

184. See, e.g., Moore, Invisible Offenses: A Challenge to Minimally Intrusive LawEnforcement, in ABSCAM Ethics 19-21 (G. Caplan ed. 1983); Magarity, RICO Investi-gations: A Case Study, 17 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 367, 368 & n. 9 (1980). The differencebetween traditional investigative methods and "proactive" investigation could be analo-gized to the distinction drawn by Professor Ackerman between "reactive" and "activist"regulatory regimes. B. Ackerman, Reconstructing American Law 23-37 (1984). Likeother "activist" state action, "proactive" investigations assume that the role of thestate-in this instance, of criminal law enforcement-is not merely to react to pastevents and judge whether particular conduct should be treated as deviant, but to moni-tor, influence and control future events-to view criminal activity, as it were, ex ante. Ofcourse, the "proactive" investigation is not fully "activist" in Professor Ackerman'sterms, because it accepts the "reactive constraint" of "apprais[ing] particular actionsagainst the background of ongoing social practice." Id. at 26. The policeman is still apoliceman, not a social engineer. Nevertheless, given that law enforcement is in its veryessence a "reactive" activity in this sense, inextricably engaged in the assessment ofindividual conduct, it is noteworthy that even law enforcement has become more activistin the more limited sense of orienting its investigations to future behavior, thus focusingincreasingly on entrapping and eliminating threatening individuals rather than merelyreacting to past events.

[Vol. 87:920

count of "the facts." To break up the information achieved by the pen-etration of an informer or a "bug" into a criminal organization intodiscrete units, to be presented at separate trials relating to separatetransactions, is no longer a natural course of action; it seems rather toviolate than to further the presentation of the truth as the investigatorhas come to learn it. He wants to tell a different, fuller story. 185

In conventional criminal procedure, the "proactive" investigationnow meets a resolutely "reactive" system of justice. As elaboratedabove, our ordinary concept of crime is based on an assessment of dis-crete acts to determine their consistency with moral norms, and ournormal concept of criminal procedure limits the evidence to bepresented to that which bears on that inquiry. The investigator cannotpresent what appears to him to be the full story, because the only storythat interests the system is the far more limited story of a particularcriminal transaction.

RICO, however, is tailor-made to fit the proactive investigation.The activities of the suspects who have been monitored can bepresented as those of an illicit association comprising those suspects;the multiple crimes they and their associates have committed are thepattern of racketeering activity through which they have conducted itsaffairs. By means of a section 1962(c) indictment, the whole of thestory uncovered by the investigation can be presented.' 8 6 As Magaritywrites, RICO "allows investigators and prosecutors to look at and pre-sent facts in a new manner."' 187 Rather than taking the evidence gath-

185. I do not mean to suggest that police officers have ever been naively unaware ofthe methods of operation of the underworld. But whatever the police officer knows orbelieves about the general behavior of criminals, reactive methods of investigation tendto confine the category of available "evidence" to what can be learned about the particu-lar incident. More intrusive methods like wiretapping give the investigator concretedocumentation of the broader pattern behind the particular incident, and thus putgreater pressure on the procedural system to permit presentation of that context.

186. It bears emphasis that the illicit association trial presents the "whole" storythat the investigators have uncovered. The abstraction of the RICO enterprise enables theprosecution to define as an entity whatever subset of a criminal organization they un-cover, or to lump into a single enterprise a variety of criminal schemes that center on aparticular individual or group. See Lynch, supra note 1 & text following note 194.While the robbery of a single bank may be perceived as a distinct event by participants aswell as by later investigators, the RICO "enterprise" and "pattern" are flexible charac-terizations capable of being superimposed on events after the fact in a variety of differ-ent ways.

187. Magarity, supra note 183, at 368. Magarity writes as if the "RICO investiga-tion" is a new manner of beast, and that the RICO statute has somehow made suchproactive investigations possible. Id. at 368-69. This is not quite the case. Investiga-tions of the type he describes certainly predate RICO, and are frequently used in con-texts, such as narcotics investigations, in which RICO is not necessarily contemplated asthe ultimate means of prosecution. It seems to me more accurate to think of RICO asproviding an outlet for the presentation of the results of such investigations, whichwould still be valuable investigative tactics in the absence of RICO, in a new and moreeffective way.

19871 RICO 965


ered in a lengthy investigation of a criminal group, featuring electronicsurveillance and undercover infiltrators, and chopping it up into trial-size bits focused on individual crimes, RICO permits a single trial tobecome a presentation of the full picture revealed by the investigation.

All of this seems beside the point, of course, to the exponent ofconventional, reactive criminal procedure. The whole point of a trial isto determine the truth of an accusation of the commission of a criminalact. In theory there may not be any inconsistency between this goal andthe presentation of several such accusations in the same proceeding. Inpractice, however, our system has made the judgment that unless care-fully controlled, joinder of offenses or defendants threatens to polluteeach inquiry with prejudicial and irrelevant overtones from theothers.188 To the extent that letting the prosecution tell its "full" storyinterferes with the jury's ability to decide whether each separate allega-tion of crime has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it conflictswith the basic purpose of the system and must be rejected.

The proponent of RICO has several responses, that involve in-creasingly radical questioning of the traditional trial model. First, evenwithout questioning the basic premises of the transaction model ofcrime, it is arguable that existingjoinder and evidence rules are morerestrictive than is necessary to prevent unfair prejudice. Despite thefears that massive RICO indictments enable prosecutors to bolster mar-ginal cases by tying minor or innocent defendants to others againstwhom there is overwhelming proof of heinous crimes, juries in RICOcases frequently bring themselves to acquit. 189 The fear of "spilloverprejudice" may be exaggerated. 190

188. See supra notes 79-81 and accompanying text.189. Any random sample of RICO cases will reveal a large number in which one or

more defendants are acquitted, either of the RICO counts or of all charges. See, e.g.,United States v. Rubio, 727 F.2d 786 (9th Cir. 1984) (all defendants acquitted of violat-ing 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and (d) (1982)); United States v. Bagaric, 706 F.2d 42 (2d Cir.)(four of ten defendants acquitted), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 840 (1983); United States v.Campbell, 702 F.2d 262 (D.C. Cir. 1983) (all defendants acquitted of RICO count);United States v. Walsh, 700 F.2d 846 (2d Cir.) (one of three defendants acquitted), cert.denied, 464 U.S. 825 (1983). While cynical defense attorneys have been known to sug-gest that prosecutors deliberately include weak defendants in large RICO and conspir-acy indictments as grist for compromise verdicts, even this claim presupposes that juriesare able to distinguish different quantities or qualities of evidence against different de-fendants. Moreover, in some ways mass trials may work to the advantage of minor de-fendants. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not a mathematical concept, andoverwhelming and incontrovertible proof against some defendants may raise jurors' ex-pectations beyond what would suffice to convict others if their cases were heard in isola-tion. Furthermore, in the mass of evidence offered against a large number ofdefendants, the jury may simply miss the significance of circ*mstantial evidence againstmarginal defendants.

190. Nor should the prejudicial impact of such evidence be evaluated in a vacuum.The jury's task is not only to evaluate the technically relevant evidence in an intellectualfashion, but to decide whether the conscience of the community demands the condem-nation of the defendant. Putting the individual crime in the context of the criminal en-

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But these limited arguments cannot succeed within the transactionmodel of crime. The danger that more lenient rules of admissiblity orjoinder would distract the jury from analyzing the probative weight ofthe relevant evidence may be exaggerated, but if the jury's only task isto make ajudgment about the likelihood that the defendant committeda particular act, there is no reason to permit them to be distracted at all.That defendants themselves may seek to distract them is no answer.Our system is not designed to give both sides an even shot at winning,but to create significant barriers to the conviction of the innocent, andsome measure of protection to the merely technically guilty. A casethat cannot withstand the modest tactical advantages given to the de-fendant is not a strong enough case to warrant conviction. Argumentsabout the amount of actual prejudice caused by RICO only address thedegree of harm it causes; they do not rebut its inconsistency in princi-ple with the transaction-based model.

But advocates of RICO can make a deeper argument. Procedurallyas well as substantively, RICO insists that the whole is more than thesum of its parts. Ifjurors react differently to the prosecution of a book-maker when he is tried alone for illegal gambling than they do to thesame evidence presented as part of an illicit association case in whichthe bookmaker is charged with participating through a pattern of gam-bling offenses in the conduct of a violent crime "family," it can be ar-gued that they are not being overwhelmed by prejudice, but that theyare responding to a genuine difference in the facts presented. The ad-ditional evidence is not merely extraneous information, to be excludedas prejudicial or condoned for its antinullification effect, but in any caseirrelevant to analyzing the defendant's involvement in a specific trans-action. Rather, it is an essential part of what makes the defendant'sactions particularly threatening to society. Only if the jury is permittedto see the fuller story-the pattern that links this particular defendant'sacts to social harm-can a judgment about his guilt be made.

The cumulative power of RICO charges manifests itself in anotherway as well. The difficulty of convicting the leadership of organizedcrime syndicates is based in large part on the difficulty of securing evi-dence directly connecting them to particular crimes. Often, the evi-dence that can be mustered to show a defendant's involvement in aparticular offense will be weak when measured against the demandingstandard of proof to a unanimous jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Butwhen ajury is presented with a series of such cases in a single trial, andasked whether the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that thedefendant is a racketeer, the case becomes powerful, rather thanmarginal.19 1

terprise to which it contributes may counter implicit defense pleas for nullification incases of apparently minor crimes as much as it injects irrelevant arguments forconviction.

191. This is of course a slight oversimplification of the jury's function in a RICO

19871 RICO


Viewed from within the transaction model of crime, this is perhapsRICO's most troubling effect. Jurors may be able to compartmentalizeevidence against different defendants; common sense supports thejudge's instruction that overwhelming proof that A is a murderer doesnot tell us whether B is a narcotics dealer. But insulating the evidencethat B dealt in drugs in 1971 from the evidence that he was involved ina 1975 arson-for-profit scheme and from the proof concerning his par-ticipation in a 1980 homicide is a harder task. In the traditional view, ifthe evidence of each separate crime falls short of persuasion beyond areasonable doubt, the defendant is not guilty of anything: three timeszero should be zero. Permitting a jury to consider the three charges atonce only contaminates the issue.

There is, of course, great force to this argument. Even in a RICOcase, the jury is not asked directly whether the defendant is a racketeer.He is guilty only if he is found, beyond a reasonable doubt, to havecommitted at least two of the specific predicate acts charged, 192 and itis inconceivable that the jury is not influenced, in considering each sep-arate act, by the evidence relating to the other predicate offenses. Adefendant may thus be convicted even though the jury would not havefound the evidence of each act sufficiently persuasive had it been con-sidered in isolation.

The RICO illicit enterprise offense can only be defended if such aconviction is acceptable. I maintain that it is. There is nothing illogicalor unfair about permitting a racketeering conviction to be predicatedon particular offenses that would not result in convictions in separatetrials. The disputable witnesses or inferences that each crime was com-mitted do in fact corroborate each other, making it more likely thateach is correct than it would be if the evidence of the other did notexist. We may, at the end of such a RICO trial, have a reasonable doubtabout precisely which of the crimes charged involved a particular de-fendant, but his involvement in more than one of the criminal activitiesof the enterprise may nevertheless have been proved to that stan-dard. 193 Moreover, the spectacle of a "reputed Mafia leader" with few

case, since the jury must find beyond a reasonable doubt that the particular racketeeringacts were committed. See infra note 192 and accompanying text.

192. The jury must agree unanimously on the particular predicates found. Specialverdicts or, more precisely, interrogatories are sometimes used for this purpose. See,e.g., United States v. Ruggiero, 726 F.2d 913, 922-23 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S.831 (1984); id. at 925-28 (Newman,J., concurring in part and dissenting in part); UnitedStates v. Palmeri, 630 F.2d 192, 202-03 (3d Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 967(1981).

193. The traditional procedural forms, moreover, do not preclude imposition ofpunishment based on just this basis. As we have seen, if the evidence can be musteredto convict Al Capone of two counts of tax evasion, he can be sentenced to ten years inprison on the strength of a judge's finding that he was an organized crime leader, eventhough a reputable dentist who hid the same amount of cash income from the IRS mightdraw probation. And this can be done although the allegations of racketeering werenever submitted to a jury or proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and the only evidence

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arrests and no convictions to show for what Congress, the FBI, and thepress contend-and any fair-minded historian would conclude beyonda reasonable doubt-is a lifetime as an organized criminal, is a depress-ing one for the criminal justice system. A procedural system that doesnot provide a vehicle for the authoritative resolution of allegations ofthis kind is faulty, and can only breed disrespect for the law.

Finally, and most radically, RICO may lead us to ask whether crimi-nal procedure, like substantive criminal law, may not have more func-tions than are traditionally recognized. Certainly when the governmentundertakes to prove in a criminal trial that the Mafia exists, and thatjurisdictional disputes among its members are settled by a "commis-sion" comprised of the heads of the five families, 194 more is going onthan simply a determination of the culpability of a handful of aginggangsters. Such a trial becomes at least in part an exercise in publiceducation and ritual denunciation of criminal activity.

Once again, from a conventional standpoint, to make this claim isto condemn the proceedings. The determination of factual guilt or in-nocence is the overt function of a criminal trial. To permit the govern-ment to bring cases that allow vivid description of the "big picture" oforganized crime at the cost of loosening procedural constraintsdesigned to safeguard defendants against erroneous conviction under-mines that function.

But this response overstates the extent to which our present proce-dural system is concerned solely with accurate fact-finding. Criminaltrials also serve other purposes. Important aspects of the system, fromthe exclusionary rule to the jury itself, may be preserved in spite of,rather than because of, their effect on accurate fact-finding. It is easy todenounce the theatrical quality of high-visibility criminal trials as soapopera, contrived for public entertainment by ambitious prosecutorsand pandering journalists. But the criminal trial's quality as ritualdrama is vital to the denunciatory function of criminal justice. The juryis not the only appropriate audience for the story the government seeksto tell in an illicit enterprise case. Using a criminal trial to make alarger point about organized crime than the guilt of a particular indi-vidual in a particular transaction serves these broader functions. 195

presented was in a form that would not have been admissible in a jury trial at all. Byexpanding the concept of "crime" beyond the boundaries of a particular transaction,RICO may make it easier to.obtain a conviction, but it does so by making the seriousnessof the threat presented by the defendant subject to the ordinary standards of proofbefore a jury.

194. See Lubasch, Mob's Ruling 'Commission' to Go on Trial, N.Y. Times, Sept. 7,1986, at 51, col. 1.

195. Moreover, we no longer principally rely on the trial to separate the guilty fromthe innocent: when 90% of criminal charges are resolved by guilty plea, and many morepotential cases are not brought because of police or prosecutorial determinations, forthe overwhelming majority of criminal defendants the critical determination of guilt orinnocence is made administratively, by the law enforcement bureaucracy. The jury trial

1987] RICO


Recognizing the importance of context to the gravity of individualcriminal acts, increasing the possibility of convicting racketeers whomight otherwise slip through the cracks in a transaction-based model ofprocedure, and utilizing the dramatic context of the criminal trial toeducate the public to models of criminal activity more significant thanthe isolated derelictions of particular individuals are important and ap-propriate goals for criminal law. If procedural rules that make the ac-complishment of these goals more difficult stem not from fundamentalrequirements of fairness, but from a particular model of crime that un-dervalues those goals, those rules will be subject to the pressure forchange and distortion that have propelled the ever-broadening inter-pretation of RICO.

3. The Challenge tojudicial Administration. - Such arguments are ten-able, however, only if the RICO trial affords due process. I have arguedthat admitting broader categories of conduct to what can permissiblybe defined as criminal does not offend substantive notions of fairness,and that the risk of procedural prejudice that results from broader no-tions of relevance is not fundamentally unfair. But the most seriousthreat RICO poses to the fairness of criminal trials may be moremundane.

Can our system of trial by jury present even an appearance of fairlyresolving the allegations made in the Castellano 19 6 indictment? Thesheer length and complexity of the resulting trial causes serious doubts.Whether or not jurors can ordinarily be trusted to make a good faitheffort to keep separate the evidence against different defendants, is itwithin the physical and mental capacity of a jury to recall accurately theseparate evidence relating to so many different individuals and so manyseparate incidents? What is the effect on ajury pool of the eliminationof all potential jurors who cannot serve in a trial that may last over ayear? What are the psychological effects on a jury of being involved inthe sometimes emotional and sometimes boring trial process for thatlength of time? The threat of substantive injustice in RICO cases maycome far more from such practical concerns than from the conceptualissues discussed above.

The collateral effects of such a trial on defendants must also beconsidered. While we understand that merely being charged with acrime involves serious financial, emotional, and reputational costs, thelaw has been content essentially to ignore those costs, holding a grandjury's charge based on probable cause sufficient to require a defendantto bear them. But when a defendant named in a RICO indictment isalleged to be involved only in a limited aspect of the case, the burdens

may be developing into a form of de novo judicial review of selected examples of suchadministrative determinations, that for most defendants is only indirectly a guarantee offairness.

196. United States v. Castellano, 610 F. Supp. 1359 (S.D.N.Y. 1985). See supranotes 53-61 and accompanying text.

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entailed by a nine- or ten-month trial that mostly concerns other peo-ple's actions may be so great that some other response is required.

Such mass trials also have a serious impact on a defendant's rightto counsel. The attention of a skilled advocate is a far more fundamen-tal guarantee of fairness of fact-finding than the various rules imposedby the transaction model of procedure. But the difference between thecost of a lawyer for a short trial and that of hiring an attorney to spendthe better part of a year in court is surely sufficient to deprive manymarginal RICO defendants of retained counsel.

The lawyer's effectiveness, too, may be compromised in a masstrial. Ordinary discovery practices may vastly increase the difficulty oftrial preparation in such a case: can the prosecution be permitted toprovide only one copy of tape recordings, transcripts, or documents,and put the burden of sharing or reproducing the materials on defend-ants? Can lawyers for defendants with potentially conflicting interestsdivide responsibility for reviewing the mass of discovery materials? Attrial, can a judge limit the number of attorneys who may cross-examinethe same witness or be heard at bench conferences? These are live andperplexing questions facing judges and lawyers involved in RICOmega-trials.

This is not the place for a discussion of the problems of managingthe complex criminal trials that RICO makes possible. For one thing,those problems are not unique to RICO, but are common to a varietyof lengthy and complex criminal proceedings. 19 7 For another, as anacademic I am not necessarily in the best position to address them. Butit bears remembering that RICO challenges not only the theoreticalmodel that animates our criminal procedure, but also the mechanics bywhich that model is implemented. The latter challenge may prove themost difficult for RICO to overcome.

H. Towards a Narrower Statute

In Part II of the first portion of this Article,' 98 we found that formany of its uses, the rather complicated apparatus of RICO, with itsrisks of vesting discretion in prosecutors to increase dramatically thepenalties applicable to various crimes, seemed peculiarly unnecessary.Similar prosecutions could easily have been brought, in the absence ofRICO, if expanded federal jurisdiction and increased penalties wereavailable in particular situations.

We have now seen, however, that unlike the use of RICO to prose-cute rather ordinary cases of governmental corruption, white collar

197. RICO exacerbates the problems posed by such monster trials by increasingthe occasions on which they will occur and by increasing the theoretically possiblebreadth of the allegations that can be encompassed by a single charge.

198. See Lynch, supra note I at notes 229-426 and accompanying text.

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crime, and labor racketeering, 199 the use of RICO against complexcriminal enterprises raises serious questions about the nature of ourconceptions of crime and of criminal procedure; this application ofRICO cannot be rendered unnecessary by adoption of a more conven-tional substitute. Any substitute that preserved the value of RICO inprosecuting illicit associations would raise similar questions.

These questions have received little attention from courts andcommentators. Because RICO was adopted without debate about itsconsequences for our procedural system, and with little apparent un-derstanding of the new conception of crime it implied, prosecutors andcourts have taken its literal terms and applied them in ways that haveserved the interests of law enforcement as perceived by the prosecu-tors, with little discussion of the consequences. Critics have too fre-quently been content merely to point out ways in which RICO violatesconventional notions of fair procedure.

That is not enough. It is not enough politically, since the apparentsuccess of RICO as a device for convicting criminals the public believesshould be convicted makes it easy for the political process to brushaside theoretical considerations. If RICO is inconsistent with conven-tional notions of what a penal statute ought to look like, and RICOtrials do not fit previous conceptions of what criminal procedure is for,it may be that our notions and conceptions have to give way, becauseRICO is probably here to stay.

Neither is it enough intellectually. As I have tried to show, certainuses of RICO present a genuine intellectual challenge to the transac-tion-based model of substantive criminal law, and to the reactive modelof criminal procedure that implements it. The tentative conclusion ofthis Article is that while RICO implies a radically different view of whatcan be defined as a "crime" and what are fit subjects for presentation ina criminal trial, this new view is not inconsistent with fundamental fair-ness, and may better reflect the reality of criminal activity in our societythan the transactional model. At the very least, RICO requires seriousreexamination of our conventional notions.

Even if it were agreed that RICO illicit enterprise prosecutions arein principle effective and morally acceptable ways of combating organ-ized criminal groups, it would not necessarily follow that RICO as cur-rently written is the best, or even an acceptable, statutory device forallowing such prosecutions. As with the other areas in which RICO hasproved effective against various forms of crime, it is likely that the sameeffects can be achieved by a statute that is more carefully drafted toattack the specific evil presented, without the all-encompassing scope ofthe present RICO statute. Since the organizing concept of RICO was

199. It can be seen from this discussion that not all cases of public corruption,fraud and labor offenses are "ordinary." At least some such cases are sufficiently far-ranging to share many of the characteristics of the multi-faceted illicit enterprise cases,

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not a direct prohibition of membership in a criminal organization, butrather the prohibition of infiltration of legitimate enterprises by mem-bers of such organizations, it is little wonder that RICO is not crafted tofit the kind of conduct against which it has proved most useful.

Improving on RICO, however, is no easy task. Since the essentialvalue of the racketeering enterprise concept is its identification of in-stances where the whole of a defendant's criminality may be greaterthan the sum of his particular criminal acts, as a result both of repeatedinvolvement in crime as a profession and of association on a regularbasis with a criminal organization, the problem is to reduce the scope ofRICO's prohibitions more nearly to.this core concept. But as we haveseen, the difficulty of defining the concept of organized crime is one ofthe very problems that led to RICO's present form.200

The excessive breadth of one of the key elements in RICO-thedefinition of "enterprise"-is the principal obstacle to narrowing thescope of RICO to a prohibition of illicit associations. Most of the par-ticular types of "enterprise" included in the statutory definition 20 1-forexample, partnerships, corporations, unions-identify legitimate enter-prises potentially subject to corruption by criminals. As already indi-cated, it is difficult to defend the proposition that crimes committed inthe interests or through the instrumentality of such organizations aredistinctively more serious than the same acts committed on one's ownbehalf. The residual definition of enterprise as "any... group of indi-viduals associated in fact," is excessively broad and amorphous to serveas the distinguishing feature of a new form of criminality-which is es-sentially the role played by the enterprise concept in the illicit associa-tion cases. Some greater effort to isolate and define the characteristicsthat distinguish a criminal syndicate from a series of ad hoc conspira-cies with occasionally overlapping membership is required.

The case law arising under RICO has made fitful starts in this di-rection. In United States v. Anderson,20 2 the Eighth Circuit, grappling forthe first time with an illicit association-in-fact RICO prosecution, re-jected what was already the majority of circuit court opinion endorsingsuch prosecutions. 20 3 But neither did the court follow the few casesholding that a RICO enterprise needed to be "legitimate. '20 4 Instead,it reversed the convictions of two local administrators who had takenkickbacks on the ground that the term "enterprise" was intended "toencompass only an association having an ascertainable structure whichexists for the purpose of maintaining operations directed toward aneconomic goal that has an existence that can be defined apart from thecommission of the predicate acts constituting the 'pattern of racketeer-

200. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 119-25 and accompanying text.201. 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4) (1982).202. 626 F.2d 1358 (8th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 912 (1981).203. Id. at 1362-72.204. Id. at 1372.

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ing activity.' ",205

The court's emphasis on "an economic goal . . . apart from thecommission of the predicate acts" in practical effect would likely haveexcluded most illicit associations, 20 6 and therefore presumably did notsurvive the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Turkette.207 Butthe notion that an enterprise should have an "ascertainable structure"and "an existence... apart from the commission of the predicate acts"are not inconsistent with the existence of enterprises that pursue en-tirely illicit goals. Indeed, Turkette largely endorses this requirement.Holding that the enterprise and pattern elements of RICO are indeeddistinct (though potentially provable by the same evidence), theSupreme Court stated that the existence of the enterprise as "an entityseparate and apart from the pattern of activity in which it engages" isproved by evidence of "an ongoing organization, formal or informal,and by evidence that the various associates function as a continuingunit.",208

This language has not been terribly helpful in restraining the scopeof RICO. Some courts have expressly or implicitly rejected the Andersonformulation as inconsistent with the acceptance by Elliott and Turkette ofenterprises consisting of "an informal criminal network engaged inracketeering activity." '20 9 "[A]scertainable structure" is hardly a uni-versal characteristic of associations held to be RICO enterprises.

The cases thus point out the heart of the problem: how to definein words the degree of organization that separates "organized" from"disorganized" crime. Organized crime groups are usually "infor-mal"-they do not generally have constitutions, by-laws, and member-ship cards. On the other hand, if RICO is justified by any distinctiveharm, it is precisely that which occurs when the ordinary association ofindividuals for a criminal purpose becomes a regularized, identifiableorganization carrying out repeated criminal acts over a period of time.If such groups do not pose a distinct threat, there is little justificationfor a statute that goes beyond conventional conspiracy doctrine. Some

205. Id.206. Some illicit RICO enterprises might not be excluded by such a formulation. A

group of individuals associated in fact for the purpose of controlling the tavern businessof Pierce County, Washington, see United States v. Zemek, 634 F.2d 1159 (9th Cir.1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 916 (1981), has no legitimate purpose, but it does have an

economic goal independent of the criminal acts that are the means for its accomplishment.207. 452 U.S. 576 (1981).208. Id. at 583.209. United States v. Cagnina, 697 F.2d 915, 920 (11 th Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S.

856 (1983); see also id. at 921 ("Turkette did not suggest that the enterprise must have adistinct, formalized structure."); United States v. DeRosa, 670 F.2d 889, 895-96 (9thCir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 993 (1982); United States v. Bagnariol, 665 F.2d 877,890-91 (9th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 962 (1982); United States v. Griffin, 660F.2d 996, 1000-01 (4th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 454 U.S. 1156 (1982).

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requirement of structure, then, should be an essential part of the defini-tion of enterprise under RICO, as well as of any replacement statute.

The size of the organization might also be a defining element in astatute proscribing organized crime. While continuity of personnel is astandard attribute ascribed to RICO enterprises, frequently the onlycore members of the group defined as the enterprise turn out to be theprincipal defendant and the government's informant.210 There is pre-cedent for statutes punishing continuing criminal activity in concertwith a minimum number of confederates, 2 11 and adding such a require-ment to an anti-organized-crime law would make sense. Whatever theimprecision in our concept of organized crime, three burglars don'tmake it.212

Another possible defining characterstic of the sorts of enterprisesthat should be prohibited is the type of criminal activity in which it en-gages. The RICO experience raises questions about the utility of anysuch attempt. As we have seen,213 the list of RICO predicates reachedits present unwieldy length because of the accurate perception that or-ganized crime groups would engage in any sort of criminal activity thatwas expedient and profitable. The desire not to allow any organizedcrime activity to escape made for a virtually all-encompassing list, andthe cases examined above demonstrate that most of the listed predi-cates have appeared in one or another illicit association prosecution.

This experience does not totally discredit the attempt to define or-ganized crime in terms of its works, however. In RICO, the list of pred-icate acts serves simultaneously to define the types of illicitorganizations covered and the specific conduct that must be committedto identify a defendant as a member of the enterprise. It is far fromclear, however, that these two functions need to be so closely linked. Ifthe purpose of the statute is to recognize that criminal conduct is moreserious where it is committed in furtherance of a criminal enterprise,there is little reason to exempt any felony from the list of offenses sub-ject to sentence enhancement if the requisite relationship is proved.There is no reason that mail fraud, receiving stolen property, or, forthat matter, illegal traffic in protected animals, 214 should not be subjectto RICO sanctions if those offenses are committed for the profit of anorganized crime syndicate.

On the other hand, in defining the associations in whose interests

210. Turkette itself exhibits this pattern. See Lynch, supra note 1, at text followingnote 194.

211. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 1955 (1976) (an illegal gambling business requires theinvolvement of five or more persons); 21 U.S.C. § 848 (1982) (requires "five or moreother persons" to qualify as a continuing criminal enterprise).

212. Cf. United States v. Aleman, 609 F.2d 298 (7th Cir. 1979) (series of burglariescommitted in two states by three individuals falls within scope of RICO), cert. denied,445 U.S. 946 (1980).

213. See Lynch, supra note 1, at notes 123-24 and accompanying text.214. See 18 U.S.C. § 42 (1976).

1987] RICO


the proscribed conduct must be committed, such global coverage is lessnecessary, and more dangerous. The type of crimes that most lendthemselves to organized professional activity, as generations of crimecommissions have reported and as the RICO cases confirm, are thoseinvolving distribution of illegal goods and services (for example, nar-cotics, gambling, prostitution), and those that operate at the interfacebetween legal and illegal society (for example, money laundering, fenc-ing, labor corruption, and loan-sharking). Serious violent crimesshould also be included, both because murder and extortion are thetools by which criminal organizations are maintained, and because anyorganized group whose object is the commission of violent crimes (forexample, terrorist groups) presents an especially dangerous threat tosociety. But if a group of criminals is not engaged in a pattern of con-duct that includes offenses of this kind, it does not pose the distinctivethreat implicit in the vernacular notion of "organized crime." More-over, it is the inclusion in the definition of criminal syndicates of suchoffenses as mail fraud, robbery, and theft from interstate shipments,that permits expansive intrusions of RICO into ordinary white collarcrime and street crime.21 5

These considerations suggest at least the outlines of a relativelysimple anti-organized-crime statute. Such a statute would provide pen-alties similar to those in RICO for anyone who commits any two ormore state or federal felonies as a member or associate of, and in fur-therance of the business of, any criminal syndicate. A criminal syndi-cate could be defined as any group of five or more individualsassociated on a continuing basis for the commission of a series ofcrimes involving murder, kidnapping, arson, extortion, bank robbery,distribution of narcotics, gambling, prostitution, loan-sharking, laborcorruption, or disposition of the proceeds of criminal activity, or anycombination of such activities. 216

215. Acts of obstruction of justice, bribery and witness tampering are also goodexamples of acts that should be subject to enhanced punishment if committed in further-ance of a criminal enterprise, but should not be part of the definition of the pattern ofcriminal activity that constitutes an enterprise. Obviously, such acts are serious, and canbe expected to occur in connection with organized crime. But their inclusion in the listof predicate activity for RICO, 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1)(B) (1982), means that whenever abusiness executive who has engaged in a fraud tries to bribe a colleague to lie to afederal investigator, the fraudulent conspirators have engaged in a pattern of racketeer-ing and are subject to RICO sanctions. If the enterprise had to be shown to have com-mitted substantive offenses typical of organized crime before obstructive conduct by oneof its members was subject to RICO sanctions, the reach of the statute would be consid-erably limited.

216. This suggestion is in large part modeled on the prohibition of "OrganizedCrime Leadership" contained in the proposed federal penal code drafted by the BrownCommission. National Commission on Reform of Federal Criminal Laws, Study Draft ofa New Federal Criminal Code § 1005 (1970). See supra note 170 and Lynch, supra note1, at note 121. A major difference between that proposal and the suggestion in the textis that the Brown Commission's proposal only applied to those who occupied leadership

976 [Vol. 87:920

Such a statute would permit prosecution of any of the larger andmore dangerous criminal groups prosecuted as illicit enterprises underRICO. The benefits of associating individual acts with their larger con-text would be preserved; those who committed serious crimes of anykind in association with the enterprise would be covered. On the otherhand, the problems of legality created by the all-encompassing scope ofRICO would be alleviated. While there is inherent vagueness in anyeffort to define an organized criminal enterprise, the effort to limit thecovered enterprises by size, structure, and objectives would make it farmore difficult for prosecutors to escalate penalties for ordinary crimes.Unlike RICO, for example, such a statute could not be applied to white-collar crime, receipt of graft by local officials, or small-scale concertedcriminal activity.

Finally, by tying the aggravating elements of participation in an on-going criminal enterprise more firmly to particular crimes committedby a defendant, my proposal preserves the procedural benefits that per-mit presentation of the full context of criminal acts, while more closelyfitting the traditional forms of substantive criminal liability.

The RICO illicit association cases show that a statute that in es-sence criminalizes membership in an organized criminal group canserve a valuable law enforcement purpose without undermining funda-mental principles of fairness. But as with other proposals advancedabove, my principal argument is not that law enforcement authoritiesneed such a statute. The point, rather, is that they already have one.Unpacking RICO into a series of specific remedies for specific problemspermits debate about the legitimacy of its various effects and the bestmeans to accomplish them-debate that never occurred when RICOwas passed.


We have come a long way from the Katzenbach Commission, andfrom Roman Hruska's efforts to criminalize the investment of dirtymoney in legitimate business. Indeed, one of the principal lessons ofthis study is the vast disparity between what the legislative historyshows that Congress was conscious of doing when it enacted RICO,and what, with the help of eager prosecutors and generally eager fed-eral courts, it actually did.

or violent roles in such syndicates, while my suggestion applies enhanced penalties tothe foot soldiers of criminal enterprises as well. As now written, RICO "draws no dis-tinction between the foot soldier and the general." United States v. De Peri, 778 F.2d963, 983 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 106 S. Ct. 1518 (1986). Whether or not it makessense to provide even further enhanced punishment for the leaders of such an enterprise,cf. 21 U.S.C. § 848 (1982) (imposing stiff penalties for individuals occupying manage-ment positions in continuing narcotics enterprises), the premise of this discussion is thatRICO is correct to see participation in a criminal enterprise as a distinctive offense forall members.

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The principal impetus behind RICO was a desire to do somethingabout what was perceived to be a serious threat to the economy andmorality of the United States from organized criminal infiltration intolegitimate economic sectors. The means by which this was to be accom-plished were twofold: the imposition, for the first time, of criminalsanctions on the act of infiltrating a legitimate enterprise, and the crea-tion of collateral antitrust-type penalties, such as forfeiture (as well as aseparate civil cause of action), that would enable the courts not only topunish the infiltrator and reduce his economic incentive to invade legit-imate business, but to expel him from the legitimate sector by expropri-ating his interest in the infiltrated enterprise.

As we have seen, this strategy was of doubtful promise from theoutset. It has always been doubtful whether the acquisition by a crimi-nal of an interest in a legitimate business is either harmful in itself, oran act that is usefully criminalized as an easily proved inchoate crime.Events have vindicated the doubters. The sections of RICO that di-rectly prohibit infiltration have rusted on the shelf, being used princi-pally as subsidiary counts in RICO indictments that take a differentapproach to the problem of organized crime. Only in the area of laborracketeering can it be said that RICO has been used in ways that specifi-cally target organized criminal influence in legitmate institutions, andeven in that area, the principal utility of RICO has been the increasedsanctions it has effectively made available for ordinary racketeering ac-tivity, and the joinder of offenses it has made possible, rather than in-novative concepts of enterprise liability or infiltration per se.

But if Congress did not accomplish what it set out to do in enactingRICO, its actions were hardly without effect on law enforcement. Thebroad draftsmanship of RICO, occasioned by the difficulty of definingwith precision what was meant by "organized crime" and "infiltration,"put a powerful weapon in the hands of federal prosecutors. Virtuallyall of the most threatening sorts of conduct previously prohibited byeither state or federal law, of both white- and blue-collar varieties, weremade subject to federal jurisdiction, with extremely severe penalties ofincarceration, fine and forfeiture, provided only that the governmentcould link more than one predicate criminal act to virtually any sort ofhuman association. In effect, under the rubric of RICO, federal prose-cutors were given enormous discretion to prosecute cases that they feltwere inadequately dealt with by existing law, because of jurisdictionalor procedural barriers, or inadequate sanctions.

In principle, this grant of discretion is highly objectionable. A pe-nal statute drafted so broadly that it allows the executive branch tooverride a wide range of normally applicable procedural and jurisdic-tional rules, to increase the maximum possible penalty for most seriouscrimes, and to take certain financial penalties outside the scope ofjudi-cial sentencing discretion, essentially whenever it chooses, raises seri-

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ous problems of legality and fair notice, and creates a strong potentialfor abuse.

In practice, however, our sample of cases does not show a patternof abuse of the statute. Most of the RICO cases we have examined in-volve serious, repeated misconduct. Moreover, although the JusticeDepartment's official guidelines for the use of RICO give little preciseguidance on selecting cases for RICO treatment, the pattern of actualuse of the statute reveals that RICO is invoked most commonly in afew, rather easily defined settings, in each of which it is strongly argua-ble that previously existing federal criminal statutes are inadequate.Thus, among the apparently unanticipated accomplishments of Con-gress in enacting RICO have been the further expansion and simplifica-tion of federal criminal jurisdiction over corruption by state and localofficers; dramatic expansion of the penalties, and particularly of the fi-nancial penalties, available for business frauds and labor corruption;and the waiver, in cases that can loosely be described as involvingongoing, organized criminal activity, of obstacles to prosecutionpresented by various rules of jurisdiction and venue, joinder, statutesof limitations, and evidence. The latter effect, in particular, raises seri-ous theoretical questions about our traditional concepts of substantivecriminal law and criminal procedure.

Isolation of these effects, and of the costs and benefits of achievingthem through RICO, permits some cautious suggestions for reformersof federal and state penal codes. First, many of the benefits to law en-forcement provided by RICO can be achieved without the breadth andimprecision of the existing RICO statute-and indeed, without usingthe "racketeering" and "enterprise" concepts at all. Virtually all of thepublic corruption cases in which RICO has proved so attractive to pros-ecutors could have been brought successfully under ordinary rules ofprocedure, without defining new substantive crimes, and without per-mitting prosecutors to decide when and how to invoke expanded penal-ties, simply by making corrupt payments to state and local officials afederal crime whenever interstate commerce is affected. I believe thiswould be a desirable step. But even those who think that such a statutewould be an unwarranted extension of federal jurisdiction, and a po-tentially dangerous intrusion into state autonomy, must recognize thatRICO has essentially accomplished precisely this effect, completing thework begun by the Travel Act and by innovative use of the extortionand mail fraud statutes, without serious congressional attention to itsdesirability. A more specific statute at the very least would make itseffect on federal-state relations explicit, without the cover provided bya purported attack on organized crime.

Second, RICO has been valuable in a large number of cases, prin-cipally in the areas of white-collar crime and labor racketeering, be-cause it permits the expansion of penalties beyond those normallyavailable for crimes such as mail fraud and violations of the Taft-

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Hartley Act. The effective use of RICO sanctions in such cases demon-strates that the maximum penalties for these offenses are not commen-surate with their danger to society or with their potential profitabilityfor criminals. Congress has already begun the process of increasingthese sentences, and both Congress and the United States SentencingCommission should explore whether the financial sanctions attachedshould be increased further, whether by additional fines, or by the ex-panded use of restitution and forfeiture.

Third, the value of the RICO forfeiture sanction suggests that in-creased use of this sort of penalty should be seriously considered. 217

The RICO forfeiture as originally conceived is not an ideal model forexpanded applicability of the forfeiture concept. As we have seen, theoriginal purpose of the RICO forfeiture remedy was the antitrust-typegoal of extruding the racketeer from the legitimate enterprise he hadinfiltrated. This purpose has resulted in several problems that moregeneral forfeiture remedies should avoid:

(1) The extent of the RICO -forfeiture was originally measured bythe extent of the defendant's interest in the affected enterprise, andforfeitures of this type remain available under the statute. As prosecu-tors and courts soon learned, however, this concept is inapplicable tomost kinds of crime; by judicial interpretation and eventual amend-ment, RICO forfeitures measured by the defendants' profits eventuallybecame available. Moreover, measuring the forfeiture by the extent ofthe defendant's interest in a legitimate enterprise perhaps far largerthan the scope of the criminal activity creates the possibility of penaltiesthat are disproportionately severe. Forfeitures calculated exclusively inproportion to the harm or profit caused by the crime would not presentthese problems.

(2) The mandatory nature of RICO forfeitures also seems to be aproduct of its original conception as a preventive rather than punitivemeasure. While it might be desirable to make forfeiture of the fruits ofcrime a presumptive consequence of conviction, forfeiture as a sanctionshould not be mandatory, but should be viewed as one of a number ofavailable financial sentences, to be coordinated with restitutionary rem-edies and fines.

(3) The notion that forfeiture aims to separate the infiltrator froma legitimate business he has invaded requires the forfeiture of highlyspecific property. This results in difficulties in identifying the specificproperty constituting the fruit of the racketeering activity, as well aspotentially affecting the interests of others in that property. Tying theforfeiture penalty to the concept of profit rather than to infiltrationshould result in the use of a general in personam judgment of forfeiture

217. Congress has already begun to expand the availability of forfeiture, by ex-tending it to all narcotics felonies. Comprehensive Forfeiture Act of 1984, Pub. L. No.98-473, § 303, 98 Stat. 2044 (codified at 21 U.S.C. § 853(a) (Supp. 11 1984)).

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of a particular sum of money, rather than of particular assets, simplify-ing administration and reducing the collateral consequences of the re-maining in rem aspects of RICO forfeiture. 2 18

Fourth, separately addressing the various law enforcementproblems to which aggressive prosecutorial use of RICO has called ourattention strips away some of the side-effects of RICO and enables us toaddress directly the more serious challenge to our traditional notionsof law and procedure presented by the massive illegitimate enterpriseprosecutions that have become RICO's principal legacy. To my mind,the question of whether we should countenance the crime of being aracketeer, and if so, whether the concept can be captured in terms lessall-encompassing than the present RICO statute is to a considerableextent an open one. For the reasons discussed above, I am inclined tothe conclusion that those of the RICO illegitimate enterprise prosecu-tions have identified both a genuine weakness in our usual proceduraland evidentiary rules and a distinctive form of harm to society that canappropriately be dealt with by a penal sanction.

But the problem of definition remains. While I am not certain thata statute can be drafted that criminalizes membership in a criminal or-ganization without the overbreadth and imprecision characterizingRICO, it seems worthwhile to make the attempt. Any such statute muststrive to capture the essential characteristics of the structured, diversi-fied criminal organization that is its target, while preserving RICO's in-sistence that such membership be evidenced by concrete criminalbehavior. I have set forth above some tentative thoughts about draftingsuch a statute.

Finally, the continued utility of sections 1962(a), (b), and (d)

should be reassessed. Section 1962(b) essentially duplicates existingprohibitions of extortion and loan-sharking -a fact that presumably ac-counts for its desuetude. 219 Since proving a violation of section1962(a) requires proof of a series of acts that are already criminal, andthe acquisition of an interest in a legitimate business with the proceedsof crime-unlike, for example, the operation of a criminal syndicate-does not appear to be a distinct and graver harm to society than thecommission of the crimes themselves, I would be inclined to omit sec-tion 1962(a) as well from a revised penal code, subject to some moregeneral treatment of the subject of money laundering. It should not bea separate crime to conspire to operate a criminal enterprise, as now pro-

218. This shift in the nature of forfeiture would also avoid the problem of forfeitureof bona fide attorneys' fees, and the bizarre possibilities of multiple forfeitures, createdby the present in rem forfeiture and the "relation back" doctrine. See Lynch, supra noteI, at notes 220-25 and accompanying text.

219. The only additional prosecutorial advantage from the use of RICO instead ofthe Hobbs Act and the loan-sharking provisions is the possibility of forfeiture of thebusiness interest acquired by the crime. If this is thought desirable, it is simpler to ac-complish it by attaching a forfeiture provision to those statutes themselves.

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vided by section 1962(d), because the distinctive crime identified bysection 1962(c) or any reformed variant is intrinsically a conspiratorialharm, and providing additional offenses only aggravates the problem ofprosecutorial power already inherent in RICO.

In short, careful analysis of the actual uses of RICO shows thatadoption of a more limited statute prohibiting membership in a crimi-nal organization, coupled with some modest adjustments in federal ju-risdiction and sentencing provisions, would accomplish most of whatRICO has accomplished, without the dangerous amorphousness of thatstatute. In addition, a proposal for such a package of statutes wouldpermit debate on the merits of the different effects of RICO to proceedseparately, with particular attention to the necessity and propriety of itsmost radical features-a debate that has never really taken place inCongress.

Realistically, however, it is probably too much to hope for seriousdiscussion in Congress about such a radical overhaul of RICO. As Pro-fessor Bradley reminds us, no federal antiracketeering law has everbeen repealed. 220 The present political and social climate seems partic-ularly ill-suited to the consideration of penal legislation that cannot beportrayed as increasing the "toughness" of criminal laws. Moreover,any effort to replace the criminal provisions of RICO necessarily willimplicate the debate over civil RICO, which has developed its ownpolitical constituency (as well as its own critics). 22 1 Pending anothereffort to recodify the federal penal code completely, I fear my sugges-tions for change in federal RICO are, for want of a better word,academic. 222

I am more hopeful that some serious pause might be taken in therush of state legislatures to adopt "little RICOs. '2 23 The above surveyof the history and operation of the federal RICO statute demonstratesclearly that the statute's form evolved from concerns with infiltration oflegitimate business that are remote from the mafia-busting prosecu-tions that presumably have attracted the eye of state prosecutors andlegislators. Moreover, the value of RICO to federal prosecutors has

220. Bradley, Racketeering and the Federalization of Crime, 22 Am. Crim. L. Rev.213, 265 (1984).

221. Lynch, supra note 1, at note 15.222. Lest this assessment seem too pessimistic, I should add that the recodification

of federal penal law may well return to the active agenda in the foreseeable future. Anyserious effort by the Sentencing Commission to base its sentencing guidelines on a co-herent ranking of the gravity of different offenses will inevitably collide with the incoher-ent penalty structure and offense definitions of title 18, and a two-tier penal code inwhich title 18 contains its present jumbled format for the definition of offenses while aseparate code of sentencing regulations superimposes a wholly different set of offensegradations and definitions for sentencing purposes will surely exceed even the Americantolerance for legal chaos.

223. More than half of the states have now adopted statutes modeled on RICO,most of them in the last few years. See Lynch, supra note 1, at note 236.

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consisted largely of its avoidance of specific problems of federal jur-sidiction, penalty structure and procedure that are unlikely to exist inthe states-given their plenary criminal jurisdiction and the adoptionby most of them of penal laws derived from the Model Penal Code-and that in any case can be attacked, where they do exist, directly.RICO's revival of the concept of forfeiture and its authorization ofprosecutions that present a broader picture of the activities of criminalorganizations may be valuable ideas, but they should be debated instate legislatures on their own terms. 224 If they prove attractive, thereis no particular reason to enact them in forms derived from a statutethat was drafted and has been interpreted in light of a whole other setof concerns. 225

Even here, however, the momentum of RICO is probably toostrong to be overcome. While state legislatures may well be persuadedto adopt modifications of RICO such as those proposed by theABA226-it is easier to extract such changes in draft legislation as theprice of adoption than to persuade Congress to modify an existing stat-ute-legislative drafters are likely to prefer a proven model, completewith a body of case law and ringing endorsem*nts from satisfiedprosecutorial customers, over a more streamlined but untried design.

I have written about RICO at such great length because I believe ithas challenged our concepts of criminal law in ways that no other re-cent penal legislation has come close to doing. I have been critical ofthe expansiveness of the statute; I have argued for its replacement by aseries of simpler statutes; and I have at least questioned whether one ofits most important manifestations is consistent with principles that havebeen implicitly taken as fundamental to our notions of just criminalpunishment. But these criticisms should not obscure the conclusion

224. Research on the patterns of use of state criminal and civil RICO statuteswould be extremely interesting, although many of the "little RICOs" are too recent fortheir effectiveness to be fully evaluated. One might hypothesize that the existence ofstate RICO statutes closely modeled on the federal act in such places as Idaho and NorthDakota is unlikely to reflect careful thought about the precise weaknesses of existingstate legislation in dealing with organized crime groups.

225. Only a few states have departed significantly from the RICO model in recentlegislation against orgainzed crime. California, for example, has adopted a statute au-thorizing forfeiture of criminal proceeds in RICO-like cases, but without creating newRICO crimes. Calif. Penal Code § 186 (West 1987). Kentucky and Texas have adoptedstatutes more similar to the statutes prohibiting participation in organized criminal en-terprises recommended above, see supra notes 209-15 and accompanying text, than toRICO. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 506.120 (Baldwin 1984); Tex. Penal Code Ann.§§ 71.01-.05 (Vernon Supp. 1987).

226. Report to the House of Delegates, 1982 A.B.A. Sec. Crim. Just. Rep., re-printed in Criminal Justice Section, Am. Bar Ass'n, A Comprehensive Perspective onCivil and Criminal RICO Legislation and Litigation: A Report of the RICO Cases Com-mittee, Appendix A (1985). New York's recently adopted Organized Crime Control Act,N.Y. Penal Law §§ 460.00-.80 (McKinney Supp. 1987), for example, was heavily influ-enced by these suggestions.

1987] RICO 983

984 COLUMBIA L4 W REVIEW [Vol. 87:920

that RICO has not been frequently abused in application, that it hasserved a valuable function by permitting prosecutors to avoid some se-rious gaps in the federal penal code, and that, while it challenges us toexpand our ideas about the nature of criminal law, the challenge shouldbe welcomed, for RICO has identified an important fact about crimethat may not be sufficiently recognized by traditional models. I hopethat I am right about these favorable conclusions, because it is certainthat we will not soon see the end of RICO.

RICO: The Crime of Being a Criminal Parts III and IV - [PDF Document] (2024)


How many crimes are included in RICO? ›

Criminal RICO

To violate RICO, a person must engage in a pattern of racketeering activity connected to an enterprise. The law defines 35 offenses as constituting racketeering, including gambling, murder, kidnapping, arson, drug dealing, bribery. Significantly, mail and wire fraud are included on the list.

What is the offense level for RICO? ›

For example, the United States Sentencing Guidelines provide that the minimum base offense level for unlawful conduct relating to a RICO conviction is 19.

What are the charges for the RICO Act? ›

Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of "racketeering activity."

Who investigates RICO charges? ›

These guidelines do not limit the authority of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct investigations of suspected violations of RICO. The authority to conduct such investigations is governed by the FBI Guidelines on the Investigation of General Crimes.

What is the maximum sentence for RICO? ›

Penalties Under the RICO Act

Not only does the RICO statute provide for criminal penalties including 20 years of prison, but the financial penalties are severe. A person convicted can face a fine of either $250,000 or double the amount of proceeds earned from illicit activity.

Has anyone ever beaten RICO? ›

The good news is that it is possible to beat RICO charges, but it requires a skilled federal criminal defense attorney with experience handling these cases. While RICO convictions are common, there have been instances where defendants have successfully avoided guilt by employing effective defense strategies.

What is an example of a RICO violation? ›

The actions most often invoked by RICO plaintiffs are mail fraud, wire fraud, and fraud in the sale of securities. However, innovative attorneys have also invoked other offenses, such as murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, and drug trafficking.

What is the RICO Act for dummies? ›

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970 seeks to strengthen the legal tools in evidence gathering by establishing new penal prohibitions and providing enhanced sanctions and new remedies for dealing with the unlawful activities of those engaged in organized crime.

What is prohibited under RICO? ›

It allows prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Such activity may include illegal gambling, bribery, kidnapping, murder, money laundering, counterfeiting, embezzlement, drug trafficking, slavery, and a host of other unsavory business practices.

Do people get out of RICO charges? ›

Since the burden of proof is on the prosecution, if they are unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was involved in racketeering, then he or she must be acquitted. RICO charges also cannot be made if it cannot be shown that a crime or crimes were part of a criminal enterprise.

What 7 states have RICO laws? ›

Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Arizona, Florida, Rhode Island, Georgia, and Indiana have enacted RICO statutes, while such laws are pending in New Jersey, California, and Massachusetts.

Can 1 person get a RICO charge? ›

At least two such acts are required to meet the standard of a "pattern of racketeering activity," meaning prosecutors have to prove that a person has engaged in two or more related criminal acts as part of their participation in an enterprise to be convicted under RICO.

How to beat a RICO charge? ›

In order to successfully beat RICO charges, individuals must thoroughly analyze the evidence against them, scrutinize the government's investigation, and challenge any weak links in the prosecution's case.

Is RICO, a federal crime? ›

RICO is a federal statute short for the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. It's part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. Before RICO, only the individual members of crime organizations who committed illegal could be arrested, indicted, and convicted.

How many years is a RICO charge? ›

Generally, those convicted of Federal Racketeering/RICO crimes are sentenced to a maximum 20 years and $25,000 fines per count. So for a Federal RICO case at least two offenses in a ten-year period must be charged and in many cases, far more specific charges are brought.

What does the RICO Act consist of? ›

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970 seeks to strengthen the legal tools in evidence gathering by establishing new penal prohibitions and providing enhanced sanctions and new remedies for dealing with the unlawful activities of those engaged in organized crime.

What are the three types of racketeering? ›

A “racket” is an organized business or a group of people that conducts business illegally for monetary gain. Drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of funds are all forms of racketeering.

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