The Right Way To Use Rico

I usually agree with Paul Craig Roberts' essays, and I too am concerned about the potential for broad interpretation of the "criminal gang" crime bill provision and deplore abuses of RICO. But Roberts was way off base when he wrote: "There's no substantive difference between civil rights protesters blocking lunch counters and abortion protesters blocking clinics" ("So you say you're not a gang member? Read on," Economic Viewpoint, Feb. 21).

The comment is demeaning both to those people who struggled for their right to eat at those lunch counters and to those who now suffer from an organized effort to deny personal legal rights through verbal intimidation, invasion of privacy, bombings, and murder. Whether from the Mafia or antichoice terrorists, those tactics are exactly what RICO is intended to combat, and I thank the U.S. Supreme Court for their Jan. 24 ruling.

Vernon P. Ellinger

Los Angeles

I live in Tempe, Ariz., and we have some laws that make it illegal to wear gang clothing to public events in the city. The laws are only enforced on street-gang members. However, the way the laws are written, members of a professional organization could be arrested for wearing a pin that identifies their group membership.

This is exactly what happened with the RICO laws. Congress wrote the RICO laws to be enforced on only the Mafia, and originally they were. But over time, some sharp lawyers saw that the RICO laws could be enforced against anyone, as the recent use of RICO on the pro-life forces shows.

Tim Leary

Tempe, Ariz.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.