Shrimp Boy Chow|Will Be Tried Separately

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge Tuesday severed seven co-defendants from Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow’s upcoming trial on racketeering charges.
     Six of Chow’s co-defendants pleaded guilty last week to several charges, including money laundering and dealing guns and drugs. A seventh co-defendant, Kongphet “Joe” Chanthavong, pleaded guilty to gun and drug dealing charges Tuesday morning.
     All seven, however, will also be tried on racketeering charges.
     “There is a potential for prejudice if the seven defendants who have pleaded guilty go to trial with the one defendant who has not pled guilty,” U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said at the hearing.
     One defendant, Andy Li, asked to remain as a co-defendant with Chow at the trial, scheduled for Nov. 2.
     Breyer denied Li’s request. He granted Chow’s motion to sever all seven co-defendants.
     During the Tuesday hearing, U.S. Attorney William Frentzen objected to Chow’s claims, in sworn declarations, that his defense counsel would be “ineffective” if it proceeded to trial on Nov. 2.
     “We don’t go to trial with lawyers who are claiming they will be ineffective,” Frentzen said. “To do so raises all kinds of issues.”
     Frentzen complained the defense had buried “a hand grenade” in their filings, allowing Chow to claim ineffective counsel after the court and U.S. government spend countless hours and resources bringing him to trial.
     “I understand your concern – that you don’t want to go to trial spending enormous resources of the U.S. government, only to have the case set aside for ineffective counsel,” Breyer said. “I don’t see that it’s the role of the court to interject itself at this time to say, ‘I want you to tell me if you’re rendering effective assistance.'”
     Breyer said he believes Chow’s attorneys are prepared to provide an effective defense, based on their repeated insistence on going to trial immediately and Breyer’s experience facing Chow’s star defense attorney Tony Serra in criminal cases when he served as a San Francisco assistant district attorney decades ago.
     Serra was not present at the hearing Tuesday.
     “I have to believe because counsel is experienced, that when an experienced defense counsel says they want to go to trial immediately, that they are ready to go to trial and are ready to provide effective counsel,” Breyer said.
     Chow’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, said the “ineffective counsel” argument was an objection intended to point out that the defense received 100 gigabytes of discovery and hundreds of hours of transcripts and recordings after Aug 25.
     Frentzen urged the judge to order the defense to reveal whether it plans to raise an entrapment defense at trial.
     “As the court knows, when an entrapment defense is raised, the government should be notified, and if it needs to amplify its disclosures, we’d like to have those issues brought to the fore,” Frentzen said.
     Briggs replied that Chow is not planning to raise an entrapment defense at this time, but would like to review all the discovery materials before making that decision.
     During the hearing, Breyer asked prosecutors if they had submitted all evidentiary materials to the defense by the Sept. 1 deadline.
     Frentzen said the government had done so, excluding certain tape recording transcripts that are still being transcribed.
     In July, lawyers for the eight defendants complained the government had not released thousands of hours of taped conversations that could be used at trial. Some of the conversations in Mandarin and Chinese were not even translated. Breyer said the government was not obligated to transcribe every tape and referred the issue of what transcripts the defense was entitled to to a magistrate judge.
     “We are in a perpetual process of also getting transcriptions of recordings,” Frentzen said. “We’re producing those as we get them. … That’s one category of material I know is incomplete.”
     Jury selection is scheduled to start Oct. 19. Breyer said jury selection may get pushed back to Nov. 2 if Chow’s attorney, Serra, who is more experienced with federal criminal trials, is not able to appear in court the week of Oct. 19.
     Kwok Gheung Chow, 55, born in Hong Kong, served 7 years in prison for a 1978 robbery conviction.
     The year after he was released he was charged with 28 criminal counts, many of them involving violence or attempted violence, and served 3 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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