Complications in SF 'Shrimp Boy' Prosecution
SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Accused Chinatown gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow has refused to sign on to a protective order that will allow defense attorneys to receive evidence from federal prosecutors, including audio recordings and video surveillance, from a five-year undercover investigation that led to his arrest, and the arrest of 26 others in March.
Attorneys for the federal government on Thursday filed a motion to compel Chow to cooperate, noting that nearly all the other defendants have signed on, and only one other defendant has not signed because of a likely substitution of counsel in the near future.
According to the government's motion, Chow was advised not to sign by his attorney Tony Serra, who asked that the government be required to make special arrangements to turn over evidence to him. The government asked the court to "resist this temptation."
"At a bare minimum, to accommodate Chow the United States would need to engage in an extremely labor-intensive review of multiple terabytes of digital information to identify those materials to which Chow is entitled under Rule 16, then separate those materials from the rest and begin an equally labor-intensive redaction process," according to the motion filed by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Frentzen, Susan Badger and S. Waqar Hasib.
"On top of that, the United States would have to set up a secure location inside the courthouse so that Chow's attorneys can view the materials, and devote government employees to staff that location whenever Chow's attorneys are present to ensure that the materials remain secure."
The government claims the materials are extremely sensitive, and if disclosed could expose the identities of the undercover FBI agents who spent years infiltrating Chow's inner circle. Chow heads the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinatown fraternal organization the FBI targeted in an investigation that also netted as defendants state Sen. Leland Yee and his political consultant Keith Jackson.
Yee is charged with wire fraud and conspiring to import firearms. Through meetings with Jackson and the undercover agent, Yee allegedly agreed to help the agent obtain guns from Muslim separatist groups in the Philippines in exchange for campaign donations.
Yee apparently was $70,000 in debt from his failed bid to become mayor of San Francisco and his campaign for secretary of state.
Jackson is charged with trafficking guns, conspiring to sell drugs and agreeing to a murder for hire. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The prolonged investigation yielded several terabytes of digital materials, the government says. Redaction of those materials would be a herculean effort, but necessary to protect the identities of other public figures mentioned in recorded conversations.
"As just one example of the difficulties involved, during pertinent and relevant conversations intercepted on wiretaps, charged defendants and named interceptees often mentioned the names of third parties, including public officials and public figures. These comments and references sometimes arose in a context that suggested possible wrongdoing, but the investigation never developed evidence in that regard," the motion states.
Prosecutors have worked with four of the defendants' attorneys for almost a month, and agreed on draft language for the protective order on April 25.
"Chow has yet to offer the United States any reason or justification for not stipulating to the protective order," the government motion states. "Carving out an exception for one recalcitrant defendant would fly in the face of the clear instructions of Rule 2" [of the Rules of Criminal Procedure].
It's no surprise that Serra has refused to cooperate with the prosecutors. At numerous press conferences, the self-proclaimed "anti government" lawyer has accused the FBI of creating, instigating and financing the crimes Chow allegedly committed.