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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Tong Expert Testifies|for ‘Shrimp Boy’ Chow

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - On the final day of witness testimony in the racketeering trial of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, his attorneys called an expert on Chinese tongs - secret societies or sworn brotherhoods - who said he did not see a criminal pattern in the groups.

Chow is accused of running the Ghee Kung Tong as a criminal organization that trafficked in drugs, guns and stolen goods, and of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

His defense team, who seemed increasingly beleaguered Tuesday, has filed a motion for a mistrial, alleging judicial misconduct, claiming that U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer has been "assuming the role of a prosecutor."

On the stand Tuesday, Bennet Bronson, a scholar and curator of Asian archaeology and ethnology, said that the bulk of his knowledge applied to 19th century tongs, and he claimed to know "very little" about tong activities in San Francisco.

Still, he told the jury he knew most tongs to be "benevolent societies by and large, although they're still pretty violent."

Bronson said tongs tend to make their money largely from real estate holdings and, being "land rich," "don't need to do very much work."

"A lot of economic privilege is involved in being in a tong," he said. "There's so much money involved that I'd be surprised if any members needed to get involved in organized crime."

Soon afterward, Bronson veered into historical territory, but Breyer stopped him.

"I don't know that what the past is, is extremely relevant for the jury," the judge said.

Asked what he thought about the testimony of the government's expert witness on tongs, Bronson said he "thought it was based basically on an understanding of triads in Asia."

"It didn't look like anything recognizable in the U.S.," he said.

But during questioning by federal prosecutor Will Frentzen, Bronson acknowledged that he does not study modern tong crime.

"I don't hear or see much opportunity for any crime committed by most tongs," he said. "I've never spoken with the Ghee Kung Tong in San Francisco. But they seem like decent, respectable people to me."

"So your sources of information are whatever individuals the tong puts forward for you," Frentzen said.

Bronson said that he "could probably recognize a low-level thug."

He offered to provide more testimony on historical tongs, but Frentzen stopped him.

"We were more interested in the part you didn't know about," Frentzen said.

Closing arguments are expected Monday.

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