SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Federal prosecutors recommend that former California state Sen. Leland Yee be sent to prison for eight years for selling political favors in exchange for campaign contributions.
A 47-page sentencing memo filed late Wednesday calls Yee a "manipulative schemer" who "understood perfectly well what it means to pay to play," and who was "willing to betray the trust of those who elected him by being prepared to sell his vote to the highest bidder."
"This sentence reflects the serious nature, as well as the breadth and length, of Yee's crimes, which involved a pattern of corruption and cynical abuse of the public trust all in the quest for greater political power," the sentencing memo states.
"Apart from providing just punishment for Yee, a lengthy prison term will serve an equally important purpose in promoting deterrence and respect for the law. Others who may consider taking Yee's path of expediency in order to deal with the intense demands of campaign fundraising will know that the consequences of such conduct are real and severe."
Yee was in desperate need of money to retire $70,000 in debt from his failed 2011 San Francisco mayoral bid, and to run for Secretary of State in 2014.
He enlisted political consultant Keith Jackson to solicit money from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen, and, the government says, was willing to throw Jackson under the bus should his schemes be discovered.
Jackson and Yee both pleaded guilty to racketeering in October 2014. The government recommended that Jackson serve six years. Both will be sentenced on Feb. 24.
The sentencing memo comes on the heels of San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon's announcement of a joint FBI task force to root out corruption in city government.
Felony bribery and money laundering charges were filed in January against Jackson and three former fund raisers for San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, after "pay-to-play" allegations arose out of the FBI investigation of Yee, Jackson and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow. A federal jury in January convicted Chow , a Chinatown gang leader, of money laundering, racketeering, ordering a murder and conspiring to murder another gang rival.
The sentencing memo outlines how Yee extorted money from an undercover agent known as Mike Sweets, who said he "planned to become the 'Anheuser Busch' of medical marijuana in California" and paid Yee $21,000 for two meetings with legislators.
Yee also agreed to broker an international arms deal for campaign donations, telling another undercover agent, "Whatever you can do get us the money..." and later adding, "I've gotta win." That agent gave Yee $6,800 for a list of weapons Yee said he would give to his associates to buy from the Philippines.
Prosecutors said that while Yee will likely seek a lesser sentence, the court should make an example of him: "A slap on the wrist sentence would convey to all public officials in California that the Federal Court does not regard flagrant public corruption as particularly serious."Follow @MariaDinzeo
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