South Carolina legislators eying tough anti-racketeering law to tackle gang violence

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — State lawmakers are considering a tough, RICO Act-style bill to unravel organized crime and put offenders behind bars for decades.

“This is something that solicitors have been asking for for quite a while,” said Duffie Stone, top prosecutor in the 14th Circuit that covers five rural counties. “This is an act that allows us to address gang activity instead of us taking out individual members.”

Stone spoke Wednesday in front of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee, which gave early support to the proposed legislation — South Carolina would become the 39th state to adopt its own RICO standards if signed into law.

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Currently, the maximum incarceration penalties for gang enticement or preventing somebody from leaving one is five years.

Senate Bill 154 could send people away for up to 20 years, along with fines of $15,000. Language in the law defines more than 50 offenses that could lead to prosecution. The bill is styled after the federal Rackeeter Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

“I think that this gives us a better tool than we have now to try and deal with it,” SLED Chief Mark Keel told lawmakers.

The act would give prosecutors power to break up crime rings that control human, drug and gun trafficking as well as organized retail theft and other coordinated activity, Stone said.

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Josh Malkin, an attorney with South Carolina’s branch of the ACLU, said the organization has First Amendment concerns about the provision, which defines a “gang” as a group of at least three people “associated in fact.”

“From the language, it seems that three members of a family or three Gamecock fans in matching attire could be considered a criminal gang,” he said. “More practically, I worry about the threat this poses to racial profiling.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration.

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Adam Benson joined the News13 digital team in January 2024. He is a veteran South Carolina reporter with previous stops at the Greenwood Index-Journal, Post & Courier and The Sun News in Myrtle Beach. Adam is a Boston native and University of Utah graduate. Follow Adam on X, formerly Twitter, at @AdamNewshound12. See more of his work here.

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