SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The political corruption case against suspended California state Sen. Leland Yee could go to trial early next year, after a federal judge decided to break the government's enormous case against 29 defendants into parts.
The first part features Yee, his political consultant Keith Jackson and any other defendants who allegedly solicited and accepted bribes in exchange for political favors.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said it makes sense to try Yee, Jackson and anyone else linked to the alleged bribery first, as the charges are simpler and should involve fewer defendants.
The indictment claims that Yee, who sought to retire debt from his failed 2011 San Francisco mayoral bid and raise money for his subsequent Secretary of State campaign, agreed to vote on certain legislation, help phony companies get state grants and contracts, and offered to import guns from a suspected terrorist group in the Philippines in exchange for campaign donations.
Jackson is accused of arranging the meetings and soliciting the donations. Yee and Jackson have pleaded not guilty.
Both were arrested in March 2013 during an FBI sweep.
The government's case cites thousands of hours of wiretapped conversations between undercover agents and the defendants, which defense lawyers are expected to try to suppress in the coming weeks.
But Breyer, anxious to get the case on the move, told a courtroom of lawyers on Wednesday that he expects that the government will come up within a week with a list of which of the other 27 defendants to try with Yee and Jackson.
"It makes some sense to try the campaign contribution case first," Breyer said. "I intend for that case to be tried relatively soon."
All 29 defendants are expected back in court on Dec. 18.
James Brosnahan, Jackson's lawyer, and Yee's attorney James Lassart said they were both prepared for trial.
"We can be ready to try that case in relatively short order," Lassart said.
Brosnahan said: "As far as Keith Jackson is concerned, we're prepared."
Breyer also asked the government to submit a revised indictment as to the conspiracy and racketeering charge against members of the Chee Kung Tong, the group headed by marquee defendant Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.
Chow, the leader of the Chinese-American fraternal organization whose headquarters were raided by the FBI in March, was indicted in April on charges of racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes.
On Wednesday, Breyer denied said the government must narrow its focus on count one of its indictment against Chow, Jackson and a dozen supposed CKT members."The RICO charge is so all-encompassing, so broad. What it's going to depend on in this case is how detailed you can be, so the defense can focus on that conduct in meeting the government's case? I'll give you 30 days," Breyer said.
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