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What is the meaning of racketeering? How long is a racketeering charge sentence?

Rapper R. Kelly was convicted on more than eight counts, including one racketeering charge, related to sexual exploitation. But what is racketeering?

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What is the meaning of racketeering? How long is a racketeering charge sentence?
TANNEN MAURY EFE

On 27 September, rapper R. Kelly was found guilty by a Brooklyn jury on charges brought forward by federal prosecutors in New York in 2019.

After a six-week trial, during which eleven victims took to the stand to detail the violence and sexual exploitation and humiliation they endured under R. Kelly’s watch, many are ready to put the experience behind them.

One of the accusers, identified in court as Sonja, told those present for the hearing that she was “ready to start living my life free from fear and to start the healing process.”

The charges included child sexual exploitation, production of child pornography, kidnapping, forced labor, and obstruction of justice. One additional charge, that of racketeering implicates Kelly’s “inner circle,” many of whom helped in the coercion, sexual assault, and production of child pornography over more than two decades.


What is racketeering?

Racketeering is not in and of itself a felony. The “racket” refers to an operation or illegal activity a group uses to collect money or profits often through coercive or fraudulent means. In the United States, there are more than two dozen felonies that can form part of a racketeering scheme.

These take various forms.

A fencing racket refers to a scheme in which an individual or group sells stolen goods. Rackets can also relate to the operation of an illegal drug, tobacco, or arms trade.

In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, to crack down on mafia-related crime. Today, it is often used to go after white-collar criminals. RICO established a federal standard for cases that qualify for prosecution under the law. For a prosecutor to file charges under RICO, they must demonstrate that someone committed "at least two acts of racketeering activity within 10 years," from a list of over twenty-seven crimes, rating from "commission of murder-for-hire" to "embezzlement."

How long is a racketeering sentence?

The RICO Act mandates a twenty-year maximum prison sentence per racketeering count for which the defendant was found guilty. A fine of $25,000 can also be attached to the conviction.

Based on the guilty verdict seen in the R. Kelly case this week, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. However, the public will have to wait until May 2022, which is when the sentencing hearing is scheduled.

What other jurisdictions have charged Kelly?

Before sentencing for the New York charges in May, trials in Chicago and Minnesota could take place. In February 2019, Kelly was indicted on criminal sexual abuse charges which involved four victims, three of whom were minor. In August 2019, shortly after the Chicago indictments, Kelly was charged with engaging in prostitution with a minor in Minnesota.