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The Criminal Conspiracy Laws Essay

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Updated: Sep 16th, 2022

The case of New York City mobster John Gotti Jr. demonstrates how criminal conspiracy charges work. As the heir to the Gambino crime family, Gotti Jr. was arrested on conspiracy charges related to several murders allegedly committed by members of the crime family. The government did not allege that Gotti Jr. personally committed the murders, but that he conspired in the killings. Naturally, Gotti Jr. denied the charges and claimed that the case was based on an informant implicating Gotti to avoid serving jail time. This case illustrates how broad criminal conspiracy laws are. Criminal conspiracy laws are broad enough that assuming that the government’s allegations are accurate, Gotti Jr. was properly charged with criminal conspiracy.

One line of defense Gotti Jr. might make is that he did not personally know the defendants who allegedly committed the murders. He would argue that since he did not know them, he could not possibly have entered into a conspiracy with them to commit murder. Unfortunately for Gotti Jr., this would not be an effective defense. There is no requirement that defendants personally know other members of the conspiracy to be guilty of conspiracy. United States v. Monroe, 73 F.3d 129 (7th Cir. 1995). The courts anticipated than in large criminal enterprises, mob bosses would not personally know all of their underlings. The law allows criminal conspiracy charges to be brought against leaders of large groups to avoid rewarding them for the size of their organization.

Gotti Jr. might also argue that there is no evidence that he took any overt steps to commit these murders. From the facts, it appears that he is being held responsible for the actions of other members of the Gambino crime family. Even if Gotti Jr. did not take any overt steps (such as ordering the murders), the law does not require that he did to charge him with criminal conspiracy. The Supreme Court has held that evidence of the actual act itself (in this case, the murders) is all that is necessary to demonstrate an overt step. United States v. Shabani, 513 U.S. 10 (1994). If the government can prove that the murders occurred as alleged on behalf of the Gambino crime family, then it can charge Gotti Jr. with criminal conspiracy. The benefit of this rule for prosecutors is that it does not require them to show what specific role each conspirator played in the murder. The government does not have to prove that Gotti Jr. ordered the murders or that he planned them, but only that a conspiracy existed between Gotti Jr. and the alleged murderers.

Of course, criminal conspiracy laws are broad enough that they have the potential to be abused by overzealous prosecutors. Gotti Jr. is not a sympathetic figure in this case, and he likely did engage in a criminal conspiracy based on the facts presented here. There are situations where criminal conspiracy laws may go too far, though. If two people conspire to commit a minor crime, and one of the parties commits a more serious crime in the process of committing the minor crime, both parties can be charged with conspiracy to commit the major crime. This is true regardless of whether the two parties were together when the major crime was committed, or whether the absent party was even aware of the more serious crime. This can lead to absurd results in some cases. While the law does allow criminal conspiracy charges to be brought fairly easily, prosecutors should use their discretion to limit conspiracy charges to cases involving major conspiracies, such as the Gotti Jr. case.

Reference List

United States v. Monroe, 73 F.3d 129 (7th Cir. 1995).

United States v. Shabani, 513 U.S. 10 (1994).

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IvyPanda. 2022. "The Criminal Conspiracy Laws." September 16, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-criminal-conspiracy-laws/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'The Criminal Conspiracy Laws'. 16 September.

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