Donald Trump has a new lawyer. Considering the former president is currently facing charges in three states as well as Washington, DC, that’s not surprising. What’s notable is who he hired: Steve Sadow, the lawyer who recently defended Gunna, the Atlanta rap star.
Gunna was charged with extortion alongside hip-hop crew Young Slime Life (YSL). His case ended last December with an “Alford plea,” a deal that allowed him to maintain his innocence while accepting a guilty verdict and community service. Cases are ongoing against other YSL members, particularly Gunna’s mentor Young Thug. All of them involve allegations that YSL is not a rap group, but a criminal organization.
Trump’s Georgia case, the most recent of his prosecutions and the one for which he hired Sadow, also alleges that he was part of a criminal organization. Like Gunna and the 27 other people Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged in the YSL case, Trump and his 18 co-defendants — including his former lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — are also facing charges , also by Willis. for violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. They have all pleaded not guilty. Both the Trump and YSL cases promise long, drawn-out affairs complicated by wrangling with lawyers, multiple motions and the use of social media as evidence.
Prosecutors generally use RICO because it makes life easier. Under the law, they don’t necessarily have to prove that a defendant committed a crime, only that he was associated with criminals who did so. Willis has described himself as a “fan of RICO” because it “allows a prosecutor and law enforcement to tell the whole story.” In Trump’s case, that story came in the form of a 98-page indictment with 40 non-racketeering charges and a massive RICO indictment that tied them all together.
This broad racketeering charge includes acts that prosecutors say demonstrate that Trump and his cohort “knowingly and intentionally engaged in a conspiracy to unlawfully alter the outcome of the trial.”  Election.” As in the RICO v. YSL case, several of these acts – 13 of the 161 total – involve the use of social media. For members of YSL, these acts include appearing in Instagram posts with certain hand signals. For Trump, these include things like tweeting : “The people of Georgia were caught off guard when they brought in large numbers of ballots and put them into voting machines.” Both cases show how prosecutors are using social media to build RICO cases, and the results of both cases become prominent examples of this whether such tactics work or not.
When most people who prosecute U.S. legal cases hear “RICO,” they think “mafia.” That’s because the original federal racketeering law, which lawmakers passed in 1970, was aimed at cracking down on organized crime. Georgia’s version of RICO is “much looser,” says Ken White, a former federal prosecutor turned defense attorney. For example, prosecutors in Cherokee County, Georgia, filed RICO charges against three court reporters nearly a decade ago. Court reporters charge per page; The crime these court reporters committed was altering the edges of their transcripts. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is now filing RICO charges against 61 activists who protested the construction of a police training facility known as “Cop City” outside Atlanta.
Willis has become a celebrated public figure through her pursuit of Trump. The Philadelphia Tribune called her an “American hero” for her alleged defense of democracy. The high profile of both the YSL and Trump cases continues to draw attention to Willis’ use of Georgia’s crime laws. Drake, for example, recently showed his support for his frequent collaborator Young Thug by wearing a hoodie that read “STOP RICO.” Georgia’s racketeering law allows prosecutors to cite a range of conduct—even conduct that occurred outside the state, such as in Washington, D.C., to prove a conspiracy, and it has been used “for a considerable period of time, without the Legislators have taken a serious look at this,” says Andrew Fleischman, a federal defense attorney. Now there is a real test.
This is where Trump’s take on Sadow is interesting. The deal Sadow made for Gunna boils down to this: evidence against probation. Although Gunna maintains that he has not cooperated with prosecutors and “has no intention of becoming involved in the trial,” a spokesman for Willis’ office told The New York Times that he would be willing to testify if asked become. In his plea, he also confirmed that YSL was a criminal organization that Willis could use in the prosecution of other accused members of the group, such as Young Thug. Trump has pleaded not guilty, but Willis, although she has maintained that she is ready to try all 17 remaining defendants (two were severed on Thursday), may try to make deals with some. The Wall Street Journal is already analyzing which defendants might “flip” first.