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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Declines to Dump ‘Shrimp Boy’ Chow Case

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In a brief hearing Monday, the federal judge overseeing the sweeping racketeering and murder trial of former Chinatown gang boss Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow refused to dismiss the government's case based on the claimed outrageous conduct of an undercover FBI agent.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he preferred to wait for the jury's verdict before adjudicating a motion brought earlier this month by Chow's defense team claiming the FBI "lied, cheated and stole" in its five-year undercover investigation of the Ghee Kung Tong, the Chinese fraternal organization of which Chow is dragonhead.

Chow is on trial for running the Ghee Kung Tong as a criminal enterprise that trafficked drugs, guns and stolen goods, and for ordering two murders. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Ruling from the bench, Breyer said he would "postpone further action until there's been a determination from the jury as to whether the government has presented its case." He added that while such matters are traditionally addressed pre-trial, with testimony heading into its second week "we're way past that point."

While the government claims Chow turned a willful blind eye to the criminal doings of his underlings, his lawyers in their motion say Chow strictly avoided criminality and devoted his life instead to community service and self-reformation.

Chow had previously served jail time in 1978 for armed robbery and was sentenced in 2000 to 24 years for conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, murder for hire and a slew of other crimes. He was released in 2003 for testifying against his former boss, the leader of the Hong Kong-based gang called Wo Hop To.

Chow's lead attorney J. Tony Serra has honed in on the government's expenditure of taxpayer dollars, noting in his motion that it put out at least $2 million wining and dining Chow while encouraging him to launder money and sell stolen liquor to his associates.

Defense attorney Curtis Briggs told Breyer that his decision was "extremely fair."

At Monday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen called the motion to dismiss "meritless," saying even if the allegations were true Chow's lawyers "so badly missed the mark on what's required of a motion to dismiss."

He said Serra was simply "hoping for a media stir" with outlandish attacks against the FBI's operation, particularly one claim in the motion that says, "This is how the Holocaust happened. Evil prevails when good men and women do nothing."

Breyer urged Frentzen not to bring that part up again.

Testimony was postponed Monday after a juror fell ill over the weekend. "We missed a whole day of trial which I find unfortunate," Breyer said, adding that he may have no choice but to dismiss juror number 5 if she is still ill tomorrow.

The government's marquee witness, an FBI agent Chow knew by his cover name David Jordan, is scheduled to testify this week along with a second undercover operative called Jimmy Chen. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Friday that Breyer will close the proceedings to the public to protect the agents.

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