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Corruption Scandal Inspires ‘Free Yee’ T-Shirts In San Francisco’s Mission District

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The 'Free Yee' t-shirt design and image of the shirts being made. (Sonja Trauss)

The ‘Free Yee’ t-shirt design and image of the shirts being made. (Sonja Trauss)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Some street peddlers in San Francisco’s Mission District have taken advantage of the corruption scandal involving State Sen. Leland Yee by selling “Free Yee” T-Shirts.

The shirts, made by Oakland resident and math teacher Sonja Trauss, are being billed as the “official T-Shirt of the Leland Yee Scandal 2014.”

Trauss said she was inspired to make the shirts after becoming engrossed in the 137-page criminal complaint detailing the corruption case.

“After the Lee story broke I couldn’t do anything but read the coverage and the complaint. It was so cinematic and unbelievable I was moved to make a commemorative t-shirt,” said Strauss, who said it reminded her of the ‘American Hustle’ movie.

“A lot of people ask why I would want him to be free,” said Strauss. “They understand when I explain it’s like a “Scarface” t-shirt.”

Strauss said she used her home computer to make the t-shirt graphic, which features an image of the smiling state senator, surrounded with images of money, assault weapons, marijuana plants, and maps of where some of the crimes allegedly involving him and other more that 20 suspects took place.

Trauss said the only area of the city where they sold in numbers were in the Mission District at 18th and Valencia over the weekend. “They’re not selling as fast as I had thought,” she said. Strauss said there was much less interest for the shirts in West Oakland, SF Bayview and the Castro District, and noted that not even one was sold at a stand she put up in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

On Trauss’ Tumblr page, the shirts were being sold for $15 each or $20 for two or more.

Yee faces seven public corruption charges and an arms-trafficking charge. The charges against the suspended state Senator stem from a long and wide-ranging investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Strauss said the sentiment she gets is 95 percent against Lee with the other 5 percent voicing disapproval of the methods the FBI used to ensnare him. “Most people that like the shirt are amused or appreciate the surreal,” she said.

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