Leland Yee Cops Plea |to Racketeering Charge

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Former California Sen. Leland Yee pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to one count of felony racketeering for accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents.
     Yee, who has up until now denied the charges against him that included political corruption and conspiracy to import guns, changed his plea after reaching a deal with federal prosecutors.
     He looked to be in good spirits as he appeared in court alongside his political consultant, former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson his son Brandon, and Brandon’s friend Marlon Sullivan, who were all there to change their pleas to guilty. All four were set to go to trial in August.
     The courtroom was so packed with media and onlookers that Yee and Jackson, both out on bail, were having trouble finding seats. Yee ended up sitting briefly with members of the press, with whom he made amicable chit-chat before the hearing started.
     The government’s indictment claims that Yee 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.
     Yee had been looking to retire debt from a failed 2011 San Francisco mayoral bid and raise money for his subsequent campaign for secretary of state.
     Jackson is accused of arranging the meetings and soliciting the donations.
     Both were arrested during an FBI raid in March 2014 that also ensnared Jackson’s son Brandon and sports agent Marlon Sullivan, who are also charged with narcotics conspiracy, murder for hire and unlicensed firearms dealing.
     Two dozen other defendants, including marquee defendant Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, leader of the Chinese American fraternal organization Chee Kung Tong, are still awaiting trial. Chow is charged with racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes. Yee was not accused of involvement in Chow’s alleged crimes, but Jackson was a Chow associate.
     The 67-year old Yee faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
     After reviewing the possible sentence from the plea agreement, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer told Yee, “You should have no expectation whatsoever as to what the sentence is,” meaning Breyer could decide Yee should get more jail time.
     While federal prosecutors balked at the idea, Breyer said Yee, who waived his right to appeal his conviction and sentence, could appeal any sentence over and above what is recommended by the government, saying, “I just don’t understand how one can give up the right to appeal something that hasn’t happened. If I were to make an error in imposing a sentence I expect the defendant should be able to appeal.”
     Yee, the Jacksons and Sullivan will be sentenced on Oct. 21.
     On July 7, the government is expected to propose the next trial grouping. Breyer said that group should include Chow, whose lawyers have been pushing to get him the earliest trial date.

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