Conspiracy /aiding / abetting


Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
I read the below in CNN today.....

I was not aware this concept existed legally.... I wonder how other countries treat similar cases

It does reinforce the point that orders need not be directly given for underlings to carry them out...... it is something which can be observed daily in any organization... and goes a long way to explain how certain decisions are taken without formal orders or paperwork....

I once prosecuted a mafia case against a powerful Gambino family captain for conspiracy to murder his own nephew, who was suspected by the mafia (correctly) of cooperating with the FBI. The family sent a lower-level soldier to tell the captain that his nephew was a "rat," in an effort to get the captain's approval to commit the murder. The captain responded by asking if the soldier was absolutely sure the nephew was a "rat," and the soldier confirmed that he was. The captain said nothing more, and the murder happened soon thereafter.
This story illustrates that one of the toughest things about prosecuting the mafia -- or any secretive, corrupt enterprise -- is that a leader often doesn't have to give direct orders for his will to be known and followed. In my case, the captain never said, "kill him." Simply asking the question, "Are you sure he's a rat?," receiving the affirmative response and then saying nothing further made the captain's will clear: he blessed the murder, enabling it to happen.

On one hand, as a legal matter, it was enough to charge a murder conspiracy; on the other hand, we knew our case would be exceedingly difficult to prove to a jury, so we gave the captain a plea deal for only five years (a deal I still question myself about to this day).

The key legal concepts here are (1) conspiracy and (2) aiding and abetting. Conspiracy is a broad concept that essentially makes it a crime for two or more people to agree to commit a crime; the agreement itself is the crime. A conspiracy does not need to be spoken out loud or explicit. It is enough if a prosecutor can prove a meeting of the minds. Of course, the less explicit the agreement, the harder it can be to prove. Aiding and abetting is another broad legal concept that makes it a crime to encourage, counsel or command another person to commit a crime. Again, even subtle or seemingly minor encouragement can fit the bill.

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