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United States v. Elliott

    Brief Fact Summary. This case involves the review of the convictions of six persons accused of conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970 (“RICO”) statute. The indictment charged the Defendants, James Elliott (Elliot), Robert Delph, Jr. (Delph), William Foster (Foster), Recea Hawkins (R. Hawkins), J.C. Hawkins (J.C. Hawkins) and John Taylor (Taylor) (Defendants), with conspiring with each other, 37 un-indicted co-conspirators and with others, to violate Section:1962(c) of the RICO statute. The essence of the conspiracy charge was that the Defendants agreed to participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of an enterprise whose purposes were to commit thefts, fence stolen goods, illegally traffic in narcotics, obstruct justice and engage in other criminal activities in order to make money.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. To be convicted as a member of an enterprise conspiracy under RICO, an individual, by his words or actions, must have objectively manifested an agreement to participate, directly or indirectly, in the affairs of an enterprise through the commission of two or more predicate crimes.

    Facts. At no time did more than three of the Defendants participate in any specific criminal endeavor, although J.C. Hawkins was linked to all of the crimes, functioning as a type of chief executive officer. A committee in charge of the “Counterfeit Title, Stolen Car and Amphetamine Sales Department” was comprised of J.C. Hawkins, Delph and Taylor, who supervised the operations of lower level employees. Another committee comprised of J.C. Hawkins, R. Hawkins and Foster controlled the “Thefts From Interstate Commerce Department.” An offshoot of this department handled such other activities as murder and obstruction of justice, intended to facilitate the smooth operation of the enterprise. Each member of the enterprise, with the exception of Foster, was responsible for procuring and selling whatever narcotics could be obtained. The common thread tying all of these departments together was the desire to make money.

    Issue. Can the RICO conspiracy convictions of Delph, Foster, R. Hawkins, J.C. Hawkins, Taylor and Elliott be upheld?

    Held. The RICO conspiracy convictions of Delph, Foster, R. Hawkins, J.C. Hawkins and Taylor are upheld. However, as to Elliott, the evidence was not sufficient to permit the jury to conclude that he conspired with the other five defendants to violate the RICO statute. As a result, Elliott’s conviction must be reversed. Elliott was found by the court to have agreed to participate in the affairs of the enterprise, but not through a pattern of racketeering activity. Elliott was only tied to the group through disposing of a small portion of Hormel meat for J.C. Hawkins and the use of another person, Joe Fuchs, as a source of amphetamines. These two minor ties to the enterprise do not show the pattern of activity proscribed by the RICO statute.

    Discussion. The court noted that prior to RICO, the conspiracy charges against the Defendants would not stand because of the lack of contact they had with each other and each department. Since all of the members had a single objective of making money, they could be prosecuted under a single conspiracy cha


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