The Legislature on Tuesday passed the RICO anti-gang bill sought by the city of Chattanooga, and city Gang Czar Boyd Patterson said it will be a major weapon in the arsenal against local gangs.
He said gang members convicted under the new law will face 12-20 years in prison as Range 2 offenders, and they will not be eligible for probation. Range 1 offenders can get parole consideration after serving 30 percent of the term, but Range 2 offenders must wait longer to be up for parole.
Matt Lea of the mayor's office, who helped lobby for the bill, said, "This is a big deal.
It's one of the bills we've been really pushing for."
He said the bill was not in the Haslam budget so it required extra effort, led by Senator Bo Watson and Rep. Vince Dean, to get it included. The approval came after it was concluded that the bill would bring some $109,800 in costs to the state for incarceration of gang members over a 2.4-year period.
Mr. Patterson, who is a prosecutor, said the bill allows the government to go after gang leaders as well as those in the forefront of the gang movement. He said a RICO indictment can be aimed at numerous members of an identified gang.
He said prosecution under the law won't happen overnight because it takes months or years to build a RICO case that will stand up in court.
The government will be able to gain possession of items found with the gang, including money, cars and other possessions involved in the gang operation, he said.