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Giuliani charged with breaking the type of law he helped innovate as a prosecutor

Giuliani made groundbreaking use of racketeering laws when he was a federal prosecutor in the 1980s. Now, he faces a similar charge himself along with former President Trump.
Rudy Giuliani, former lawyer to Donald Trump, exits federal court in Washington, DC, on May 19, 2023.
Rudy Giuliani, former lawyer to Donald Trump, is facing charges under Georgia's racketeering law.Eric Lee / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

When he was working as a federal prosecutor in New York in the 1980s, Rudy Giuliani was hailed for his innovative use of racketeering laws against the mob.

Now he faces a similar charge — a violation of Georgia's RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act — for allegedly taking part in a conspiracy with then-President Donald Trump and others in a bid to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

The charge carries a minimum five-year prison sentence and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

The state law is based on federal RICO law, which Congress passed in 1970 to combat organized crime.

Giuliani, 79, wielded it for just that purpose and to spectacular result when he was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Giuliani used the law — which allows a variety of crimes to be tied together into a single racketeering charge — to take down the leadership of the city's "Five Families," organized crime families that operated across the country. The indictment charged that their leadership was essentially a "board of directors" for the Mafia and had engaged in murders, extortion and loan sharking.

The trial lasted 10 weeks and netted eight convictions. Giuliani said at the time that the verdict "resulted in dismantling the ruling council of La Cosa Nostra."

His success led to more widespread application of the law, which is often used against violent street gangs and other criminal enterprises.

Georgia's version of the law has also become a favorite tool of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who brought the case against Trump and Giuliani. In a prominent example, Willis used the state law, which has been around since the 1980s, to prosecute public school educators involved in a cheating scandal a decade ago, when she was a deputy in the office she now leads.

She has used it in numerous cases since she became district attorney in 2021, including an ongoing case against the rapper Young Thug.

Her reliance on the law has sometimes sparked criticism, with the Georgia NAACP and other groups suggesting that the prosecutions in the cheating case were too heavy-handed and that they disproportionately targeted Black people.

The case against Young Thug — born Jeffery Williams — and people alleged to be his associates includes some major underlying crimes, including murder, armed robbery and drug offenses. First Amendment advocates have criticized it for including some of the rapper's lyrics as an "overt act" in the racketeering conspiracy. Williams has pleaded not guilty, and the case is in a protracted jury selection process.

Willis spoke about her frequent use of the law in an interview with The Washington Post this year.

“I have right now more RICO indictments in the last 18 months, 20 months, than were probably done in the last 10 years out of this office,” she told the newspaper, saying the law “allows you to tell jurors the full story.”

In a statement shared by an adviser Monday night, Giuliani said the indictment against him is “an affront to American Democracy” that “does permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system,” and he called it “just the next chapter in a book of lies with the purpose of framing President Donald Trump and anyone willing to take on the ruling regime.”

“The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly,” Giuliani said.