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Two Chicago-area brothers are facing charges related to the fencing of stolen merchandise from their electronics store. The brothers are believed to have knowingly acquired the stolen merchandise, which is important for their successful prosecution. Authorities say that the merchandise was stolen from railcars and then sold to the brothers by thieves. They then repackaged laptops, fitbits, and other electronic devices for sale in other states and countries. 

Transportation of Stolen Goods

There are several statutes that the brothers can be charged under, but in this case, they are only being charged with selling and transporting the stolen goods, not with actually stealing them. You can bet that if federal prosecutors had evidence of the brothers stealing the goods or being involved in the theft, that the charges would have been much higher. That is because theft of interstate commercial goods are prosecuted under The Hobbes Act which is an anti-organized crime and racketeering legislation that allows for enhanced penalties related to the interference of interstate commerce. In this case, the brothers avoided penalties under the Hobbes Act because they did not use force or coercion to acquire the goods.

Under the law, police officers face the same consequences for committing crimes that the general public does. The issue that comes into play is the fact that police officers have more ability to manipulate the law to their advantage than the general public does. When they commit crimes, they understand how an investigation will unfold, they can cover their tracks, and they have the support of their brothers in blue to back them up.

Recently, an off-duty Chicago police officer was charged with discharging her weapon at Sam’s Club when a team of thieves attempted to swipe her SUV. She was in the parking lot with her husband when the theft occurred. The officer opened fire on the thieves and has since been charged with a crime: Reckless discharge of a weapon. Did she really commit a crime?

Analyzing the Charges

One thing many folks are not aware of is that double jeopardy, the legal concept by which an individual can only be tried once for the same crime, does not apply across jurisdictions. While it is exceedingly rare for the federal government to pursue a prosecution that was already lost at the state level, it is much more likely in cases when the defendant is acquitted. It is also more likely in cases where the federal government has a valid reason to pursue the charges under federal law, and the cases they do pursue after failed state prosecutions tend to be high-profile high-stakes cases like Rittenhouse’s trial.

The jury was made aware by the judge that if they convicted Rittenhouse on any of the homicide charges, it would reduce the likelihood of a second trial filed by the federal government. On the other hand, it increased the possibility that Rittenhouse would be convicted in this trial. In other words, the jurors were instructed as to the consequences of their decision. 

What Federal Charges Could Rittenhouse Face?

The Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial took an interesting turn this week. When a judge excludes a certain line of questioning from a criminal case, neither side can ask questions that would put a witness in the position of answering that question. In this case, the judge excluded evidence that Rittenhouse was going to the protest to defend property. The prosecution had Rittenhouse on the ropes when they broached that line of questioning. Before Rittenhouse could answer through tearful sobs, the judge shut down the proceedings, rebuked the prosecutor, and sent the jury out of the room. 

The defense’s objection raised the point that the trial was not going well for the prosecution. By asking questions that had been specifically prohibited by the judge, the prosecution (the defense claimed) was attempting to cause a mistrial that would have allowed the prosecution to start all over again, perhaps with a better theory of what happened and stronger supporting evidence that could be made. The defense then also moved for a mistrial with prejudice. That would have meant that the trial could not have ever been retried by the prosecution and Rittenhouse would be presumed innocent of the charges for the remainder of his life. 

Understanding What is Happening

With the Kyle Rittenhouse trial now entering its waning hours, much and more has been written about the justifiable use of force in self-defense situations. In the Rittenhouse case, the prosecution is failing to overcome the statutes that make exceptions for the lethal use of force in certain situations.

The prosecution had hoped to introduce evidence that Rittenhouse had gone to the riot in order to “defend property,” but was rebuffed from introducing that evidence. Further, the prosecution was unable to uncover any social media evidence that indicated that Rittenhouse went there for the purpose of doing armed combat with “commies.” That would have been the smoking gun (no pun intended) they needed to pursue a strong prosecution against Rittenhouse. Unfortunately, they never uncovered that smoking gun. And while we can all question why Rittenhouse was allowed to enter a war zone with a gun and the type of parenting failures that had to go into that decision, the jury will not be able to take that into account.

That means that the prosecution is stuck arguing that Rittenhouse did not act in self-defense once he got to Kenosha. Since the one guy was going after his gun and the other guy tried to hit him with a skateboard, the prosecution will likely not overcome their burden of proof.

Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen charged with murder of two people during race riots in Wisconsin, has entered the second week of his trial to determine if the teen should face adult penalties for the deaths. Meanwhile, a political war is brewing over whether or not Rittenhouse did anything wrong or even illegal. With polarization on both sides of the issue, some believe that Rittenhouse was doing his best to protect his country from armed mobs. Others believe that Rittenhouse went out there looking for a fight. Depending on who you believe, you may be inclined to think Rittenhouse is guilty or innocent

Despite media claims, Wisconsin does not place restrictions on the ownership or possession of weapons by 17-year-olds. Rittenhouse broke no law by carrying the rifle and his defense team maintains that he acquired the rifle in Wisconsin meaning he did not transport the rifle over state lines. The only question before the jury is whether or not Rittenhouse was justified in discharging the weapon. 

The Question of Self-Defense

The federal government has seized a private plane and 100 kilograms of cocaine from a suspected Mexico-to-Chicago pipeline. 80 kilos were seized from a vehicle in Chicago and another 20 were found in a hotel room. The plane was seized as part of the investigation. Authorities believe that the plane made its way to the Gary International Airport by way of Houston. The drugs were eventually found here in Chicago. Three men are now facing charges related to drug trafficking

Private Jets and Drug Trafficking

Despite the cost of private jets, they are becoming much more popular among cartels and other traffickers. Private jets can look like personal business jets, so they provide good cover in plain sight. In many cases, these planes are coming from Brazil, which has been red-flagged as a major narco hotspot after mechanics found cocaine on a plane that had radioed for help. 

When you think of gun trafficking charges, you generally think of hit TV shows like The Sons of Anarchy. On the show, the bikers formed an uneasy alliance with the Irish Republican Army who manufactured guns for sale on American streets. The bikers made alliances with the cartel and were generally a mass distributor of weapons to criminal organizations. In other words, they dealt in quantity. While gun trafficking like this does occur, it is much more likely that weapons trafficking charges will take on a more modest form.

In one local case, four men were charged with the illegal sale of weapons on the streets to individual buyers. The guns were purchased at gun shows around the country, distributed to a St. Louis defendant who moved the guns into Chicago, where they were distributed to a street-level dealer who sold the guns on the black market. All of this is outside the regulatory framework of gun sales. That makes it illegal. However, it is much easier to pull off a scheme like this than it is to be responsible for managing international distribution over the ocean. Hence, it is much more common to see weapons trafficking charges take this form rather than criminal organizations acting as logistics to gun manufacturers. 

From the Street Level Up

15 members of the Sin City Deciples and a 16th individual have been charged with federal racketeering and drug conspiracy charges. The Sin City Deciples are a motorcycle gang that hails from Gary, Indiana. They are accused of trafficking stolen property, drugs, violence, extortion, and other crimes related to their outlaw motorcycle club. According to the indictment, the Deciples made money by trafficking in cocaine and heroin while extorting other MCs to pay them dues. Among the allegations are that Deciples showed up armed at a rival MCs club to force the members to wear their Sin City insignia. 

Preparing the Case Against the MC

The indictment has just been handed down, but allegations against the club go back as far as 2009. The club was formed in 1967. The indictment states that the 16 individuals were involved in drug enterprises to distribute cocaine and heroin through networks within Indiana. The prosecution has decades worth of sales to undercover agents and the organization has been infiltrated enough that there is evidence of discussions concerning club business that will be presented by undercover agents. 

Five Chicago gangsters are facing RICO charges related to a criminal enterprise, the O-Block street gang, that murdered a Chicago rapper and committed other crimes on Chicago’s South Side. Since the gang members are charged with orchestrating a murder, they will face a minimum sentence of life imprisonment and a maximum sentence of the death penalty. 

RICO Charges and Investigations

The purpose of RICO is to help prosecutors use the full extent of the law to pursue criminal charges. Prior to RICO, a prosecutor had to know which member of a criminal enterprise committed the offense. That left defense attorneys with the option of pointing the finger at other vested parties within the same organization. That vested party could point the finger at another vested party, and so on. It became impossible to get the men at the top of the conspiracy because they always worked through intermediaries. So unless you had them saying, “Hey Joe, can you please kill a rapper?” There were no legitimate means of prosecuting the shot caller. 

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