ANTI-MAFIA LAW HAS CONSEQUENCES
MARCH 16, 1963 Civil-rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King will surrender today at the Jackson, Mississippi federal courthouse to begin his seventeen-year sentence for criminal racketeering, a spokesman for Dr. King said. Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Chairman Samuel L. Bowers said in an official press release that "This is a triumph for law over the criminal agitators who are conspiring against public order." ACLU Chairman Roger Baldwin and ADL Chairman Abraham Foxman have already begun serving their sentences, as have a dozen other high-ranking figures in the civil rights movement.
The surrender brings to an end the first phase of the controversial lawsuit brought by the commission against a broad alliance of civil rights and civil liberties organizations under the recently-passed Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Mississippi vs. King et al. Using the clauses in the law that broadly defined racketeering and "continuing patterns of criminal activity", the Commission's lawyers were able to include in the charges organizations that were not apparently directly connected to the desegregation protests, and by citing repeated support for individuals who were involved in protests and boycotts, demonstrate the racketeering activities as defined in the law.
While appeals are continuing, legal experts have indicated that the chances of the defendants having the convictions and judgments overturned are poor, as the Commission based its indictment very closely on last year's lawsuit filed by the NAACP against the Georgia Ku Klux Klan, which led to the imprisonment of United Klans of America Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton and the levying of a $3.4 million judgement against his organization. The Georgia CLU had temporarily suspended a policy against using the racketeering laws for such lawsuits in connection with this particular one.
The civil phase of the lawsuit resulted in substantial financial judgments against the indicted people and organizations. It appears likely that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Anti-Defamation League will be forced to declare bankruptcy and go into liquidation, and that the Mississippi state government will receive a substantial financial windfall. Other organizations convicted in the suit, including the National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People and the Southern Christian Leadership Council, will also go into receivership and be wound up to settle this debt.
Minister Louis X, a representative of Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, stated that the Black Muslims would continue the efforts on behalf of "our lost brethren." The Nation of Islam was one of the few Negro organizations not included in the lawsuit, due to its isolation from mainstream civil rights activism.