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Trial phase of tobacco racketeering suit begins

[JURIST] The trial phase of the US government's $280 billion civil racketeering suit against eight of the largest tobacco companies begins in Washington, DC Tuesday. The Justice Department says the tobacco industry violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act by conspiring to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking and the addictive nature of nicotine.

Lawyers for the tobacco industry argue that although tobacco executives may have expressed doubts about public health concerns, that doesn't amount to fraud under RICO. Read the DOJ's 2001 amended complaint [PDF] and other case documents. AP has more. Tuesday's Legal Times has an analysis of the perceived absence of public comment from Attorney General John Ashcroft and other high-ranking DOJ officials on the tobacco case.

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