Justice Dept. Won't Defend Forest Workers
Three highly decorated U.S. Forest Service workers have been sued by a San Diego businessman under the civil RICO Act (known as the Racketeering Act) for trying to block a luxury condo development and the Justice Department has left them to fend for themselves.
Okovita sued under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a statute originally passed in 1970 to strengthen the government's arsenal against mobsters and drug lords. As time has passed, the law has been used against a variety of individuals and groups. Legal experts, however, said they believed this was the first time the law had been targeted at Forest Service employees.
The three Forest Service employees and Steers said the charges against them are patently false. The government workers maintain that they were acting in their official capacity as Forest Service employees and have done nothing wrong. Steers said Okovita's suit was brought partly "to intimidate other activists from speaking out. That won't work," she said.
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