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Report: DOJ may use mafia-inspired RICO charges against protesters who stormed US Capitol

Tear gas outside United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. (Tyler Merbler/Flickr)
February 03, 2021

The U.S. Department of Justice may be using a law intended for the mafia to charge rioters involved in the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol, according to a new report on Wednesday.

The DOJ may use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) which combats organized crimes with large penalties, such as prison time up to 20 years, Reuters reported, citing two law enforcement sources – one currently working in the administration and one recently separated from the federal government.

The sources said the decision to use RICO is currently under consideration in the DOJ.

“This is something that is being mulled over in the halls of DOJ,” one source said, adding that officials are trying to determine if those accused of being involved in the Capitol storming meet the criteria required for the RICO charge.

The RICO law went into effect in 1970 with the purpose of eliminating “the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce.”

The law was specifically created to target mafia leaders who orchestrated crimes without directly participating in them.

DOJ frequently uses the law to prosecute gang leaders. Just last week, national and state leaders of the Gangster Disciples gang were indicted on RICO charges for murder, attempted murder, and gun crimes.

The DOJ has charged more than 170 people connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol storming and are looking for additional suspects, including a suspect who planted pipe bombs around Washington, D.C. the previous day.

A spokesperson for Sen. Richard Durbin, who is slated to become to become chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, “There are multiple statutes currently available for federal prosecutors to use to hold the perpetrators behind the Jan. 6 attack accountable, including RICO, and prosecutors should appropriately evaluate potential charges.”