[JURIST] Closing arguments began Tuesday in a US government lawsuit filed against tobacco companies over five years ago. The suit went to trial eight months ago and is expected to wrap up this week. Federal prosecutors filed suit [AP report] under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text], claiming the tobacco companies conspired to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking. During the case, a federal appeals court ruled that the government could not seek a $280 billion penalty [JURIST report] against the companies for past profits, instead limiting relief to prevention of future violations. This means that even if the judge rules in favor of the government, a highly-damaging penalty is unlikely. Although the trial wraps up this week, there is little indication how US District Judge Gladys Kessler [official profile] will rule or when a ruling is expected. The massive proceeding encompasses 44,000 pages of testimony, 83 live witnesses, and about 6,700 exhibits at a cost to the government of $130 million. The US Department of Justice provides documents and background materials on the tobacco litigation. Reuters has more.