Facts of the Case
Defendant was charged in connection with a series of bank thefts that were allegedly conducted by a group that was loosely organized and did not appear to have had a leader or hierarchy. The trial court refused to give defendant’s proposed instruction that the government was required to prove that the RICO enterprise had an ascertainable structural hierarchy distinct from the charged predicate acts. The trial court instead instructed the jury that an association of individuals without structural hierarchy could form an enterprise.
Did the House Committee’s investigation into Barenblatt’s affiliations with the Communist Party transgress his First Amendment protections which limit congressional inquiries?
“No. The Supreme Court held that, under RICO, the association between criminal enterprises must be shown to have a “structure,” but the relevant jury instructions need not spell out the precise elements which need be found. With Justice Samuel A. Alito writing for the majority and joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, and Justices Antonin G. Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Clarence Thomas, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Court reasoned that a jury need not be instructed to find an “ascertainable structure” in order to find the association of enterprises because such instructions would be redundant as the jury is already tasked with finding the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt from which it may infer a “structure” of criminal association.Justice John Paul Stevens dissented and was joined by Justice Stephen G. Breyer. He argued that Congress merely intended RICO to apply to “business-like entities,” and thus the majority’s ruling extended RICO liability far beyond Congress’ intent.”
Citation: 556 US 938 (2009)
Granted: Oct 1, 2008
Argued: Jan 14, 2009
Decided: Jun 8, 2009
Case Brief: 2009