Judge Won’t Toss Charges|in ‘Shrimp Boy’ Chow Case

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge said Thursday that lawyers could not prove the FBI unfairly targeted former Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow in a racketeering probe.
     U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer threw out a motion to dismiss for selective prosecution along with a motion for discovery that Chow’s lawyers said would have yielded the evidence they needed to prove the motives behind the FBI’s investigation.
     “There is no evidence!” Breyer shouted at one point, having grown impatient with the lawyers – who at times spoke over him – and their headstrong persistence that they were entitled to memos regarding the FBI’s investigation of other prominent political figures.
     In their filing, lawyers J. Tony Serra, Curtis Briggs and Greg Bentley claimed that the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District felt threatened by Chow’s political clout and his association with the Ghee Kong Tong, which they described as the “Chinese Free Masons.”
     “This is a case that suffers defects in so many areas. They were blindly, obsessively dogging our client in every possible fashion,” Serra told Breyer Thursday.
     “He became a political, outspoken person. He became a target because of his First Amendment prerogatives.”
     Chow is charged with laundering gambling and drug money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a member of La Cosa Nostra from New Jersey, as well as conspiring to sell contraband cigarettes. He was rounded up in an FBI sting with 27 other defendants, including former state Sen. Leland Yee and former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson, who were accused of, among other things, taking bribes in exchange for political favors.
     In July, Yee and Jackson each pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering after negotiating plea deals with the government.
     Briggs noted that the FBI also implicated San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in a bribery scandal involving the laundering of campaign donations, but he was not prosecuted.
     The attorney pointed to a phone conversation between an undercover FBI agent and human rights commissioner Zula Jones, who allegedly instructed the agent to send a $10,000 donation and that she would “break it up.” Briggs added that Jones then said, “Ed knows the money is coming from you.”
     Briggs said Lee was in the same room as Jones and likely heard the conversation. He said Jones gave the phone to Lee who said, “I’m looking forward to working with you. Thank you for your support.”
     “Discovery should at least have a good description of what it is that Ed Lee knew and why he wasn’t prosecuted,” Briggs told Breyer. “The evidence is at least strong against Ed Lee and the people raising money for him as it was against Keith Jackson and Leland Yee.”
     But Breyer said Lee looked to be innocent.
     “I see no evidence whatsoever of any criminal wrongdoing by the mayor. In the Keith Jackson-Leland Yee case, the defendants acknowledged that they were involved in money laundering and contributions for improper purposes and quid pro quos.”
     Briggs said Lee was clever enough not to leave a paper trail.
     “He’s a smart person and this is how he insulates himself,'” Briggs said.
     “Innocent people also don’t leave a trail because they didn’t do anything wrong,” Breyer said in a raised voice.
     He added, “The burden is when you accuse someone of a crime, as you are, and that forms the basis in part for your selective prosecution motion, you do have the burden of showing that somehow this person has committed a crime. Every paper I’ve looked at is consistent with innocence, not with guilt.”
     Serra said, “The court is overly abundantly supporting the mayor here, and we’re not accusing the mayor of a crime.”
     The case, he said, “cries out for some judicial intervention.”
     Breyer said Chow’s lawyers had not shown that he was selectively targeted because he exercised his First Amendment rights, while other similarly situated suspected criminals were not prosecuted. The selective prosecution standard established by U.S. v. Armstrong, from which Breyer read on the bench, was that the defendant must provide some evidence that the prosecution “had a discriminatory effect and that it was motivated by a discriminatory purpose.” “Mr. Chow has fallen fall short of that standard,” Breyer said.
     Serra objected to Breyer reading a prepared opinion, saying it seemed “like we’ve just been wailing in the wind.”
     Breyer said he had prepared the opinion yesterday, but was hoping the lawyers could convince him he was wrong.
     “I thought, as I do in most cases, that I should listen to the lawyers because they may change my mind. I was not convinced my opinion was wrong,” Breyer said.
     Chow’s trial is slated to begin Nov. 2.

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