The President and the Boss's son: Prosecuting the crimes of America's most powerful

John Hagan*, Bill McCarthy, Daniel Herda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Relatively few theoretical criminologists are recognized for their lasting impact on public policy, and it is therefore instructive to reconsider a scholar whose influence endures. Donald Cressey wrote a theoretically driven Presidential Commission essay that inspired the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). He also advanced a theory of “respectable crime” that explains why this act has more extensively been directed downwards to dismantle ethnically organized criminal groups rather than upwards to prosecute elite political conspiracies led, for example, by Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley and US President Donald J Trump. We present case studies of Daley and Trump that illustrate the continuing relevance and underappreciated potential of Cressey's theoretically driven scholarship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-380
Number of pages24
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • crimes
  • politics
  • privilege

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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