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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

New Tennessee Law Puts Gangs Under RICO Category

May 30, 2012
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Chattanooga officials say local police already have identified some violent criminal street gangs that officials could eventually target under an expansion of Tennessee's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act that takes effect July 1. "The answer is yes," said Boyd Patterson, one of Mayor Ron Littlefield's two Gang Task Force coordinators, on Tuesday. "There are some specific criminal organizations in Chattanooga to whom the RICO bill could be applied." The Chattanooga-initiated bill, which legislative records show Gov. Bill Haslam signed May 21, became an official state statute on Tuesday. Also on Tuesday, Haslam held a ceremonial signing of the bill with Littlefield, former prosecutor Patterson, the Gang Task Force's outreach coordinator, Fred Houser, and several local lawmakers who sponsored the measure in attendance. The measure expands the RICO law, which was restricted to child pornography and drug trafficking. It redefines "racketeering activity" to include committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit or soliciting or coercing someone else to commit a criminal gang offense, according to a legislative summary of the legislation.