Sunday, April 5, 2015

Two Easter Back Stories

Judas Iscariot and The RICO Act

By Eric Stradford

AMWS, April 4, 2015, Atlanta -- As eleven public school educators sat pondering their futures, historic Easter Sunday outcomes added one ray of hope to otherwise uncertain futures.  Neither the trial, the conviction nor the unjust punishment is how the story ends.  For 2.1 billion Christians worldwide, the indisputable, uncontroversial truth stands -- HE GOT UP!

It’s the single most significant reality in the story of Jesus The Christ. But the controversy leading to the most remembered moment in human history is almost always ignored, forgotten, or perhaps forgiven.  One of two background plots in the traditional telling of the Easter Story centers around 12 faithful followers. 

Judas Iscariot, one of twelve original disciples identified in the Bible, is the one who would betray Jesus.  In modern-day terms, Judas, “the bag man,” handled the money for Jesus’ community organization.  He betrayed Jesus for a bribe of "thirty pieces of silver" and, after thinking about what he had done, went out and hung himself.   This economic twist should not be construed as encouragement for folks who plead out under pressure from government prosecutors.  The pressure then on Judas and more recently on some three dozen educators through modern day use of The RICO Act has inspired even the most seasoned criminals to fess up even if they thought their cause was just.

The RICO Act of 1970 also known as Public Law 91–452, is formally titled The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.  RICO was intended to provide for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.  The Act is not recorded as one of the Acts of the Bible, but one of which every believer needs to be aware.

In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because the seizure of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.

When the U.S. Attorney decides to indict someone under RICO, he or she has the option of seeking a pre-trial restraining order or injunction to temporarily seize a defendant's assets and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property, as well as require the defendant to put up a performance bond. This provision was placed in the law because the owners of Mafia-related shell corporations often absconded with the assets. An injunction and/or performance bond ensures that there is something to seize in the event of a guilty verdict.

RICO focuses specifically on racketeering.  It allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them. It closes a perceived loophole that allowed somebody who told somebody to, for example, steal, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually commit the crime personally.

Based on the spirit of the law, the 35 Atlanta educators originally charged with cheating nor Judas Iscariot should have encountered RICO’s long arm.  The modern-day controversy stems from a perception among some African Americans that some standardized testing and too many public school policies fail in adequately preparing young Blacks for the real world.  An educator, with an opportunity to “save” a student from moral and or economic despair might face similar challenges in a “Race To The Top,” or “No Child Left Behind” system of educational accountability.

So, who benefits from jailing educators?  And, for that matter, who benefited from the trumped-up charges, trial and conviction of Jesus The Christ?   The Back Story of Judas The Bag Man offers insight into humans empowered to judge others.  One other back story in the Easter Story might someday emerge from the power of perception.  Who is telling the story and what is being left out?

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