Lawyers read legal filings differently from the general public. Whereas most people (including the talking heads) react to what is there, lawyers are more interested in what is omitted. The Georgia indictment handed down in today’s early hours is no exception.
Unlike the DC court indictment which reads like a crime novel, the Georgia indictment is intricate and tedious. Such is the nature of a racketeering case. The first count of the indictment lays out, in sequential order, the 161 acts that constituted the “criminal enterprise.” All of the 19 named defendants participated in the alleged criminal behavior at some point or another, with some of the cast of characters appearing at different times.
There are at least two important things missing from the indictment.
First, detail. An indictment is not required to recount in excruciating detail what the evidence is that support each of the 161 criminal acts. Therefore, at this point we do not know exactly what happened on each of these occasions. That evidence will come out later. All that is required in the indictment is to lay out the bare bones of the criminal activity.
Second, and here’s where it gets interesting, there are 30 unindicted co-conspirators mentioned in the indictment. What this means is that there were not “just” 19 people who engaged in the criminal activity; there were 49.
The remaining 30 individuals are most likely people who have cooperated in the investigation (or were minor characters) and have therefore not been charged. The testimony that cooperating witnesses provide at trial will help the prosecutor prove the case. Should they fail to continue cooperating, there is nothing to prevent the prosecutor from adding them as defendants at a later date.
The existence of unindicted co-conspirators generally points to a much stronger case. It is one thing for an independent witness to recount what “they” did (and then to have their credibility challenged on cross-examination). It is entirely another to have someone testify what “we” did.
So, what is the takeaway from the “missing” parts of the indictment? Of the 49 people who allegedly were part of the criminal enterprise, at least some of the 30 unindicted co-conspirators are likely cooperating with the investigation in some manner. In other words, they have already flipped. Does this mean that all of the remaining 19 will go to trial? Not likely. As the strength of the evidence against them increases, expect some of the remaining defendants to change their pleas in exchange for testimony and/or a reduced sentence. If that occurs, any criminal enterprise that existed will implode on a limited number of people.
Note that my comments are first impressions. The case is exceptionally complex, and a lot of unexpected twists and turns are likely to occur before any trial takes place.