DA Clayton to get “gang members” in control: ‘When they go low, we go RICO’

PORT ALLEN: “When they go low, we go RICO.” That was a phrase that 18th JDC District Attorney Tony Clayton used at Tuesday afternoon’s press conference involving the deadly shooting during halftime of the Sugar Cane Classic in Port Allen on Sept. 1.

What does that statement mean? UWK spoke with Clayton about its meaning and how it will affect crime in the 18th JDC. Clayton says there are not “gangs” per se in the three parishes he is over, West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Pointe Coupee. Instead, Clayton said, “We have a little group of kids who identify themselves as gangs.”

The RICO talk comes after a 15-yr-old was killed and a 28-yr-old woman was caught in the crossfire and shot in the arm during a high school football game in Port Allen.

Since the Sept. 1st shooting, West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested two 18-year-olds and two juveniles for their alleged roles in the deadly shooting.

Jarrettin Ranaud Jackson II

Clayton said he and staff members in his office will now be educating deputies in the three parishes on what specifically to look for that would fit under RICO, such as gang signs, colors, communication, etc…Deputies will specifically be trained on what to look for online as well on social media platforms.

What is RICO?

RICO stands for Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. The federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law was passed in 1970 as the “ultimate hit man” in mob prosecutions. Before RICO, prosecutors could only try mob-related crimes individually. 

RICO allows for the prosecution of all individuals involved in a corrupt organization.

“We are using that same statute to fight the low-level gang members here in this state,” Clayton said. “We’re looking for social media comments, anything inciting a riot or threatening, and anything out there displaying gang colors displaying you’re from a certain location, we’re coming after you.”

To violate RICO, a person must engage in a pattern of racketeering activity connected to an enterprise, according to Clayton. The law defines 35 offenses constituting racketeering, including gambling, murder, kidnapping, arson, drug dealing, and bribery.

“When you shoot and kill somebody, that gun and your buddies who went with you, all are just as guilty as you,” Clayton explained. “They are guilty of aiding and abetting. Conspiracy is allowed in those RICO prosecutions as well as hearsay. Any information about the establishment of the way they operate.”

Is rap music to blame?

Clayton said there is a problem with separate groups of kids between West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, and Iberville Parishes.

“We have a little group of kids who identify themselves as gangs. We’re about to dismantle it,” he said. “They’re the root of the problem with these juvenile crimes. They’re into this rap music. You can tell by the association with rap music. They all think they are the subsidiaries of Fredo Bang and NBA Youngboy. The gist is that it’s not these broken families like we once thought. It’s rap music.”

“These rappers are putting out these videos, and they’re making a penny per video off of social media, and they are displaying their violent acts, and it’s silly,” he added. “We will be monitoring all of that to make sure we’re ahead of it.”

Clayton said he tried two cases under the RICO statute that involved a gang in New Roads when he was first elected. He said he was successful in both attempts.

“When I was first elected, there was a gang called the Young and the Wreckless from New Roads, and they were responsible for several murders between West Baton Rouge and New Roads,” he said. “I decided to take them under this RICO deal, and I was successful. I had an expert from the state police testify in both cases, and he educated us on what to look for. The jury unanimously convicted both, and they are doing life in prison.”

At the end of the day, Clayton and other WBR officials have repeatedly stressed the crime will not be tolerated on the west side of the river and there was no need to bring it into the communities. This is an effort to get a hold of an issue before it can become an even bigger problem.

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