Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, urged the Department of Justice to use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute to go after rioters and their supporters as violent unrest continues to plague several Democrat-run cities across the country.
“We’ve made requests to the AG’s office to investigate some of the people who seem to be organized and running these riots, then use the power of the executive branch to conduct the investigations and use the laws that the Congress has made, such as RICO, to try to legally dissuade people from getting involved and causing this violence and mayhem,” Biggs said during a special order on the House of Representatives floor regarding the ongoing protests.
“We also need the FBI to conduct the investigations that are necessary,” added the Arizona Republican.
Speaking Thursday to the Fox News Channel’s Outnumbered Overtime, Biggs stated that he is “a big believer that if you make arrests and you prosecute. You actually slow down some of this unlawfulness that’s going on out there.”
“I think there are people that are tired of it,” the lawmaker said in reference to the ongoing unrest. “but I still face people who are saying, ‘This is overblown; the damage is overblown.'”
300 people have been arrested on federal crimes since protests began over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, according to an analysis conducted by the AP.
In a memo to U.S. attorneys Thursday obtained by The Associated Press, the Justice Department emphasized that federal prosecutors should aggressively go after demonstrators who cause violence — and even sedition charges could potentially apply.
The sedition statute doesn’t require proof of a plot to overthrow the government, the memo read. It instead could be used when a defendant tries to oppose the government’s authority by force.
Attorney General William Barr has been pushing his U.S. attorneys to bring federal charges in protest-related violence whenever they can, keeping a grip on cases even if a defendant could be tried instead in state court. Federal convictions often result in longer prison sentences; sedition alone could lead to up to 20 years behind bars.
The AP contributed to this report.