SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge ordered accused Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and his attorneys to comply with a protective order dictating disclosure of evidence in his trial for conspiracy and money laundering.
Chow’s attorney J. Tony Serra fought the government’s motion. He sought to keep secret the evidence, which includes two 1-terabyte hard drives of audio and video recordings, claiming it would deprive him of the ability to disclose possible exculpatory evidence to the media.
Chow was rounded up along with 26 others in March, including state Senator Leland Yee and his political consultant Keith Jackson, after a five-year undercover investigation by the FBI.
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.
Jackson is charged with trafficking guns, conspiring to sell drugs and agreeing to a murder for hire. He and Yee have pleaded not guilty.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he had reviewed the wiretaps at issue and agreed with prosecutors that the order is necessary to protect the identities of undercover FBI agents who spent years infiltrating Chow’s inner circle.
“Given the volume of sensitive material and the fact that it is so enmeshed with nonsensitive material, the protective order negotiated between the government and all of the other defendants in this case is both practical and appropriate,” Breyer wrote.
The judge added: “The court recognizes that this process is not perfect, but concludes that it is, as the government states, ‘the only way to produce the discovery in this case in an expeditious manner.’ The court cannot abide by defendants sitting in custody (and their lawyers sitting on their hands) while the government engages in such time-consuming line-by-line redaction.”
Breyer said Chow could not support his assertion of a First Amendment right to disclose information subject to a protective order.
“Defendant Chow makes passionate arguments about his desire to counter the government’s having ‘already wrongfully convicted [him] in the eyes of the public,’ however he cites to no authority suggesting that a defendant can flout a protective order to distribute Brady material to the media,” Breyer wrote.
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