Florida Court Reverses RICO Convictions in Tampa Cocaine Ring Prosecution – Morgan v. State

In Morgan v. State, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals explains one of the criminal laws that often comes into play in drug trafficking cases: the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Earnest Morgan was arrested and charged with a number of crimes stemming from a Tampa police investigation of an alleged crack cocaine drug ring operating on the east side of the city. The investigation began in July 2005 after the police learned through informants that a man named Maurice Walton was running the alleged ring. The cops obtained a warrant to intercept Walton’s phone calls and noticed that he made a significant number of calls to a phone later identified as Morgan’s over a five-month span.

Walton was eventually arrested. Under questioning, he fingered Morgan as the supplier of his cocaine and admitted to using that cocaine to make crack. He later called Morgan’s number and arranged a controlled cocaine buy. Although Morgan showed up at the designated time and place, the police officers who met him there did not find any drugs on him or in his car. He was nevertheless arrested and charged with one count of violating the Florida RICO Act, RICO conspiracy, possession of a firearm, and conspiracy to traffic in cocaine.

Other individuals arrested explained that they regularly purchased crack from Walton to fill orders on the street, but did not tie Morgan to the operation. He was nevertheless convicted following trial. Morgan later appealed, arguing that the trial court should have granted his request for acquittal on the two RICO charges because the evidence was not sufficient to support these charges.

The Second District agreed, finding that the evidence was not sufficient to establish both of the necessary “predicate acts” to warrant a RICO conviction. The state RICO Act prohibits a person from conducting or participating in a criminal enterprise through what is called “a pattern of racketeering activity.” In order to prove this pattern, the state must show that the person charged engaged in at least two predicate acts in furtherance of the enterprise including “the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims, or methods of commission,” the court explained.

“In this case, however, the record on appeal does not establish that Morgan engaged in the requisite predicate acts of racketeering,” the court concluded. The prosecution proved one predicate act by introducing evidence showing that Morgan set up a cocaine delivery to Walton on one specific date. It did not, however, prove the required second predicate act, according to the court.

A RICO charge is a serious matter that requires complex legal analysis in order to mount the appropriate defense. If you are facing RICO or other criminal charges, you are well-advised to seek the counsel of an experienced attorney. The South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are dedicated to providing our clients with aggressive, competent and high-quality representation. We are prepared to defend your rights and help achieve the best outcome possible.

Related blog posts:

The Difference Between Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy to Commit Drug Trafficking – Davis v. State

Court Sends Question of Cell Phone Search During Criminal Arrest to Supreme Court – State v. Glasco

Ruling Makes it Easier for Drug Possession Defendants to Seek Alternative Sentencing – McGrill v. State