The federal anti-racketeering law has been used since the 1970s to bring down mob bosses. Could it be used to prosecute Harvey Weinstein? Lawyers for six actresses who say they were sexually assaulted by the movie producer filed suit last week arguing that Weinstein was a racketeer who used a legion of assistants, casting agents, security firms, gossip writers and others to supply himself with a stream of unwilling sexual partners and silence their complaints. Their anti-racketeering case is a civil one. It prompted discussions about whether prosecutors could make a criminal case, the Associated Press reports. G. Robert Blakey, a University of Notre Dame law professor emeritus who helped write the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, said it wouldn’t be easy.
The law was drafted to bring down organized crime but it isn’t limited to it, Blakey said. It has been used by prosecutors used to go after rule-breaking Wall Street firms and corrupt government contractors. A criminal anti-racketeering case has many hurdles, Blakey said. Federal prosecutors would have to prove that a criminal enterprise existed, it affected interstate commerce and the defendant was associated with and engaged in racketeering. It would also have to be brought within five years of the conspiracy ending, he said. The racketeering statute is a federal law, though some states, like New York and California, have similar state laws. “The goal of the (anti-racketeering) claim is to ensure not only do we get the head of the enterprise, but also those around him who enabled his conduct, whether they tampered with witnesses or destroyed evidence after the fact, or … delivered the women to him,” said Beth Fegan, the lead lawyer on the civil suit. Weinstein’s attorneys said that all the allegations of sexual assault against him are false.