New Charges Loom in Yee Corruption Scandal
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge laid down a timetable on Friday for the corruption case against Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, his political consultant, a Chinatown mob boss and 26 others ensnared in a five-year undercover criminal probe.
U.S. Attorney Susan Badger told Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer at a hearing Friday morning that the government "is anxious to start discovery." But in a court filing on Thursday, the government said it plans to bring additional charges in a superseding indictment, which Badger says will be ready within 90 days.
"Of particular note, the government is continuing to pursue its investigation of RICO violations as well as additional substantive criminal violations," the government said. The filing did not name which defendant will face the additional charges.
Breyer gave the government until July to finish polishing its case, and set another hearing for July 24th. He also ordered Badger and the slew of defendants - including Yee's political consultant Keith Jackson and Chinatown gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow - and their lawyers to return to court next week to hammer out a protective order for the hoard of evidence held by the government.
In its Thursday filing, the government said it plans to furnish evidence that includes body recordings, video recordings and wiretaps as soon as the protective order is in place.
"Unlike in some recent large cases in this district, the purpose of the protective order in this case is less to protect civilian witnesses and more to ensure that materials are not leaked that could either expose identities of undercover employees or confidential informants, or be used in a negative manner against individuals who have been investigated, but who are not charged, in this investigation," the government said in the filing. "As it currently stands, there are very few civilian witnesses about whom the government has safety concerns in this case. However, that may change as the investigation continues and additional charges are filed."
Yee is currently charged with wire fraud and conspiring to import firearms. Prosecutors say he agreed to import assault weapons from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines in exchange for campaign donations from an undercover agent. Jackson is charged with trafficking guns, conspiring to sell drugs and agreeing to a murder for hire. Both pleaded not guilty this week.
Prosecutors say that Chow is the leader, or "Dragonhead," of the Chinese fraternal organization Chee Kung Tong, whose headquarters were raided by FBI agents in March. That sting operation that led to the arrest of Chow, Yee, Jackson and the 26 other defendants.
The FBI said in an affidavit that Chow laundered gambling and drug money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a mafioso with La Cosa Nostra from New Jersey, and also conspired to sell contraband cigarettes.
Tony Serra, Chow's lead attorney, blasted the government for allegedly entrapping Chow and instigating criminal activity and accused the government of "racism" and "malfeasance."
"They tempted my client in every fashion to commit a substantive crime," Serra told reporters.
At the Friday hearing Jackson's attorney, James Brosnahan, suggested the defendants should be split up or that Breyer should dismiss the charges because the defendants "are really not together on any allegation" and joinder could be a violation of federal criminal procedure.
"The government has agreed these defendants cannot be tried together," Brosnahan said. "If that's true, how far can we get on any of the issues if each person is joined with any other defendant?"
"That's not in front of me, and I think I have to deal with what is in front of me at this point, which is the disclosure of information in the government's case," Breyer replied. "We all recognize we're not going to have a trial of 29 defendants."