[Posted by WLS]
I’ve been trying to deconstruct the Vick plea agreement from looking at the indictment, the press reports of the plea agreement, and the comments of the judge in taking the pleas of the other co-defendants. I think there is lots left that is not known, and Vick might be in a lot more jeopardy that the media now appreciates.
Here’s what is known:
Vick is going to plead guilty to the indictment as it stands, which charges only a single count of conspiracy. That has a maximum term of 5 years.
But, one of the criminal objects of the conspiracy was the “interstate travel in aid of racketeering enterprises.” If he had been charged with that substantive offense, rather than just a conspiracy to commit that offense, the potential maximum sentence under that statute as applied to him would have been 20 years.
This statute often makes up a series of charges that allege a RICO violation. RICO is most easily understood as creating and operating an “enterprise” for the purpose of conducting criminal activity — like the mafia, street gangs, or drug organizations. The benefit of a RICO charge is that the federal prosecutors are able to bring into a federal case evidence of violent state crimes that standing alone would not be federal crimes, and would not otherwise be admissible. But a RICO charge can include as “predicate” crimes actions that are violations of state law.
Once you have a RICO count in place, the scope of evidence admissible against a defendant is hugely expanded, and the possible range of prison sentences grows exponentially.