Murder Evidence Weighed Ahead of Shrimp Boy Trial

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The United States wants to introduce new evidence that Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was involved in two murders when his racketeering trial kicks off in November.
     Chow’s attorneys say the allegations are highly prejudicial and that the government should not be allowed to present such evidence at trial because their client was not charged with homicide.
     “If there is a murder being charged, then let’s charge that and have a trial,” said Chow attorney Curtis Briggs. “It’s speculation.”
     During a pretrial conference on Monday, U.S. Attorney William Frentzen said the government uncovered new evidence that Chow was involved in the 2006 murder of Alan Lueng, former leader of two Chinese fraternal organizations, the Hop Sing Tong and Chee Kung Tong.
     “Here you have a situation in which the defendant’s rise to take over the Chee Kung Tong occurs exactly within this context of his predecessor being murdered,” said Frentzen. “We have just recently been able to link the defendant to soliciting that murder.”
     Frentzen said the government also has taped conversations of Chow referring to another murder victim, Jim Tat Kong, who was killed along with his wife in a double homicide in the Mendocino County town of Fort Bragg in 2013.
     The prosecutor said a wiretap recording caught Chow saying he had “lifted his protection” from Kong and “cast him out as a brother,” indicating that others would act on his behalf to murder Kong.
     “Those conversations are irrefutable, and they happened frequently,” said Frentzen.
     The prosecutor argued the evidence significantly demonstrates the nature of Chow’s alleged racketeering enterprise and that the material is “essential” to facts surrounding the case.
     “I’d like to hear why the government believes it’s essential as one more factor to demonstrate the illegality of this enterprise,” said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer. “You have a litany of other evidence – bags of other evidence – to demonstrate this is an illegal enterprise, all of which would be admissible in the court’s view, but that doesn’t have the same wallop that a homicide has.”
     Breyer asked the prosecutor to file an offer of proof on the murder allegations under seal but Briggs objected, asking that the motion be filed publicly.
     After the hearing, Briggs accused the prosecution of attempting to “mention” the murder allegations without giving the defense a chance to challenge the claims or make them subject to cross-examination.
     “Our client wants it filed publicly because he wants the truth to come out,” said Briggs.
     Briggs also added the murder victim, Kong, was a “thug” that “terrorized old people” and that the FBI should have been investigating him, instead of Chow.
     The prosecution also asked to present evidence of Chow’s alleged involvement with a massage parlor that engaged in illegal prostitution, where Chow was a “frequent customer,” according to Frentzen.
     Breyer said he would also need to weigh the potential for that evidence to prejudice the jury against its probative value.
     The judge granted the government’s motion to exclude evidence of outrageous government conduct. In August, Chow’s attorneys accused the FBI of unfairly targeting their client while allowing San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to get away with taking bribes from undercover agents.
     Breyer denied the defendant’s motion to exclude testimony from co-defendants, many of whom pleaded guilty to gun and drug dealing charges earlier this month. The judge said if there were questions regarding the credibility of those witnesses because of deals offered by the prosecution, the defense could raise those issues through cross-examination.
     The defense also filed a motion to exclude FBI agents’ recollections of Chow’s statements, based on the government’s alleged failure to preserve evidence or deliberate destruction of evidence.
     “There are inaudible parts of recordings, but those are extremely common,” said Breyer. “There’s no evidence that there was a deliberate attempt not to record whatever was said.”
     Breyer denied the motion to exclude testimony on FBI agents’ recollections of what Chow said during inaudible parts of wiretapped conversations.
     On the defendant’s motion to reveal the identities of confidential informants, Breyer said informants can only be made available for cross-examination when the informant is the “sole witness” to an alleged crime. Breyer said the defense failed to “make a showing” that any confidential informant was the only witness and therefore indicated he would deny the defendant’s motion to disclose confidential informant names.
     Breyer also ruled that the defense must inform the prosecution if it intends to raise an entrapment defense by Oct. 13. Raising an entrapment defense will require the defense to show Chow lacked the predisposition to commit the alleged crimes and that the government induced him to commit those crimes. That would allow the prosecution and defense to raise questions about Chow’s past crimes and conduct, which could be highly prejudicial but also relevant and admissible for an entrapment defense, Breyer said.
     The judge also denied the government’s motion to impanel an anonymous jury, finding there was no compelling argument to justify that action.
     Breyer ordered the defense and prosecution to produce witness lists by Oct. 13 and proposed jury instructions by Oct. 30.
     Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 20, and the trial is set to start Nov. 2.
     Kwok Gheung “Shrimp Boy” Chow, 55, born in Hong Kong, served seven years in prison for a 1978 robbery conviction.
     The year after he was released, he was charged with 28 criminal counts, many involving violence or attempted violence, and served three more years. In 1992 he was arrested again on racketeering charges, and was sentenced to 24 years in 1995. He got out early after testifying against his former boss.
     He refused to take a plea deal in July. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years on each count of money laundering.

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