SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A member of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow's Chinatown gang on Wednesday described for the jury how Chow asked him to "take care of Jimmy," a rival gangster who was shot to death.
It was Andy Li's second day on the witness stand in Chow's racketeering trial. Chow could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to murder. He also is charged with trafficking in guns, drugs and stolen property.
"Jimmy," Jim Tat Kong, a member of Chow's Hop Sing Tong gang, was shot dead in 2013, two years after he and Chow had a public spat at a Tong meeting. Chow was worried Kong was trying to take over the gang.
Li, 42, said he had been living in Los Angeles, having fled San Francisco after he testified alongside Chow in the trial of Peter Chong, former leader of the Hong Kong-based triad Wo Hop To. Li said Chow visited him and asked how it was going with Kong.
Chow, whose testimony was instrumental in putting Chong away in 2002, told him he thought Kong was working for Chong, Li said. "He thought Jimmy was with Chong's group trying to put a hit on him," Li told the jury. "He asked me if I could find someone to take care of Jimmy."
Li said that meant Chow wanted Kong dead. He said he told Chow he had someone in mind for the job, a "Southsider from L.A.," but wanted to wait until he moved back to the Bay Area. To hire someone from Los Angeles while he was living there would look suspicious to police, he told the jury. Li told Chow he would pretend to have a public fight with him, then get close to Kong.
At a nightclub in 2012, Li told an undercover FBI agent that he was coming up to "squash the bugs." But when he asked Chow what his next move should be, Li testified, Chow replied: "Don't worry, it's been taken care of."
Li's relationship with Chow deteriorated in 2013, culminating in a nightclub brawl that ended with Chow bleeding on the floor and Li afraid for his life.
It started when Li harangued Chow about his cocaine habit. He said Chow, who was shopping an autobiography, told him he wouldn't stop until his book deal was settled.
Then Chow was irritated that Li didn't want to kill another gang member they called "Skinny Ray," who had fallen out of favor with Chow.
Li testified that he didn't want to do it himself because he was too well known, but would hire someone. Chow wasn't happy about that. "He said, 'You never do anything for me anymore,'" Li testified. "I was furious. I'd done a lot for him and he denies everything."
Li, a hulking man with a crew-cut and burn scars on the left side of his face, reminded Chow of an arson he'd committed on Chow's orders, for which Li had never been paid.
Chow slapped him. "I told him I'm not 16 years old anymore and we can take it across the street," Li said.
Li said he didn't remember who hit first, but he landed three blows before Chow hit the floor.
Another cooperating witness, Joe Chanthavong, took Chow home. "I felt bad after I hit him, but after he left I was worried," Li said. "I just beat down my leader, and most of the people he got into arguments or fights with are dead."
Li said Chow would lose respect if word got out and Chow did not retaliate for the beating. "You don't go and beat down a high-ranking member without being punished. That's how it is in any gang. If people in China found out I beat him up, he'd lose a lot of respect. Even in our own gang he'd lose respect."
He said he called Chow the next day, and Chow said, "It's all your fault," and said Li wasn't even worth having as an enemy.
The feud continues to this day. After they were arrested in March 2014 at the end of the FBI's five-year undercover racketeering investigation, they argued while in a holding cell.
"I told him it's all your fault that we're here," Li said.
Chow is accused of running the Ghee Kung Tong as a criminal enterprise that trafficked in drugs, guns and stolen goods. He also is charged with ordering the murder of his Ghee Kung Tong predecessor Allen Leung in 2006, and conspiring to murder Kong. Chow and Li were ensnared in an FBI roundup of 29 GKT members after an agent spent nearly four years posing as an East-Coast Mafioso to get close to Chow, who introduced him to GKT members such as Li.
Li pleaded guilty in 2014 and in September this year to conspiracy, dealing guns and drugs, illegal possession of firearms and illicit marijuana cultivation.
Chow's attorney J. Tony Serra vilified Li on the stand, reciting his lengthy criminal history and noting that Li had asked his wife to submit a false declaration on his behalf so he could get bail.
"You'd do anything to save your own skin," Serra said. "You want everyone to forget you're a career criminal."
Serra said Li was planning his return to criminality even as he sat on the stand.
"You're probably planning right now who owes you what, what money you're going to get and what crime you're going to commit," Serra said. "You have no moral qualms, no moral reservations and are willing to enrich yourself through criminal means."
Li said he didn't understand what Serra meant.
"Do you want me to put it in one word? You're a sociopath."
Serra cited a conversation Li had with the undercover agent, who went by the alias David Jordan, in which he bragged about running someone over with a car, putting stun gun electrodes up someone's nose and "Supergluing someone's penis shut."
"You have a little quirk in your psyche, don't you?" Serra said. "You're a little sick to say such violent things."
Li told the jury he had exaggerated to impress Jordan, who he believed was a tough Italian mobster. "I was trying to make myself sound either as bad as him or better," Li said. "You see in the movies that these Mafia guys, they kill people."
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