Paul Harrison was indicted on April 8, 2003 for violations of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act (RICO). The indictment alleged a scheme whereby Harrison, the owner of a real estate company, engaged in a mortgage fraud scheme that took place between October 1, 2001 and May 8, 2002, and was centered around the law offices of co-defendant Barbara Renee Edwards Snead and involved fifteen other co-defendants and eight different properties. Harrison was convicted under that Indictment and sentenced to twenty years, sixteen to be served in prison and the remaining four on probation.
Several months later, Harrison was indicted again for violating the RICO Act by engaging in a similar mortgage fraud scheme in the same county which allegedly took place between June 2, 2000 and May 29, 2003, and was centered around the law offices of William Lewis Vaughn and James W. Avant, and involved Vaughn, Avant, Harrison and four other co-defendants, none of whom were named as co-defendants in the earlier indictment. The properties listed in this indictment were also different, as were the lending institutions involved.
Harrison filed a plea of double jeopardy arguing that the State should be barred from prosecuting him the second indictment because the RICO violations and predicate offenses in that indictment arose from the same conduct upon which the earlier indictment and conviction had been based. Double jeopardy prevents the State or Federal Government from trying a person twice for the same crime. The trial court concluded that the violations alleged in the present indictment were distinct and different from those crimes for which Harrison was convicted in the prior indictment, and denied Harrison‘s plea of double jeopardy. Harrison appealed this decision of the trial court.
The appellate court stated that although both indictments alleged a scheme to defraud various lending institutions, they involved different properties, co-conspirators, real estate transactions and, with the exception of one lender named in both indictments, different lenders and were thus, in effect, two separate conspiracies. The fact that the two conspiracies may have overlapped in time and resulted in violations of the same criminal statutes does not govern the determination of whether jeopardy attached in the first trial as to the subject matter of the second indictment. Although the charges arguably arose from the same type of conduct-and even from the same course of conduct, common scheme, pattern of behavior or modus operandi, they did not all arise from â€˜the same conductâ€™ in the sense of one specific transaction or unbroken sequence of events as used in the charging statute.
The appellate court found that the second indictment was not barred by the principle of double jeopardy and affirmed the judgment.
October 20, 2006; Harrison v. State, 2006 WL 2987923, Ga.App., 2006.