SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — Suspended State Senator Leland Yee, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and a list of 27 other defendants in a government case were back in court on Friday. Federal prosecutors say more charges and defendants are expected to be added to the case.
Multiple defendants appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer at San Francisco’s Federal Courthouse. The new charges will likely contain racketeering, though prosecutors didn’t identify who those charges would be brought up against.
The judge Friday was trying to set the ground rules for a very complex and dramatic court case with undercover agents setting the traps for the corruption and trafficking charges.
‘Can the eventual indictment even be one case?’ was the pointed question from Keith Jackson’s attorney, James Brosnahan. Jackson was Yee’s former political consultant as well as a former San Francisco school board member.
“There’s no logical connection between many people that are listed in the indictment and the other parties, so I think that was an interesting point that was brought up,” said Curtis Briggs, part of Raymond Chow’s legal team.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said that he expects it to be broken into several smaller trials.
“Whatever takes place will be smaller and more discrete,” U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer told a crowd of 21 lawyers and 21 of the 29 defendants gathered in the front of his Federal Building courtroom.
Brosnahan suggested the case should be divided into at least three different trials because many of the charges are unrelated, noting that prosecutors agreed in a filing Thursday that there should be several trials.
Various of the defendants are accused of a wide array of charges, including public corruption, arms trafficking, drug conspiracy, conspiracy to sell stolen cigarettes and a never-completed murder for hire plot. But none are accused of all of the counts.
Breyer did not set a trial date or decide to how to divide the case, but scheduled a July 24 hearing for a status conference on the case. If there has been a superseding indictment, the defendants will be arraigned before a magistrate on the same date.
The judge also set a hearing for Thursday for finalization of a protective order that will provide procedures for releasing of prosecution evidence to defense lawyers and protecting the confidentiality of some of it.
Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, is accused of six counts of defrauding citizens of his honest services by allegedly soliciting and taking campaign contributions in exchange for political favors for donors and one count of conspiring with Jackson to do so. The purported donors were undercover FBI agents.
The senator is also accused of conspiring with Jackson and Daly City dentist Wilson Lim to engage in gun trafficking without a license in connection with an alleged plan to have an undercover agent posing as a Mafia member buy $2 million in weapons from an arms dealer in the Philippines.
Jackson, a political consultant who was president of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education in 1997, has been released on a $250,000 bond.
He is accused of selling guns and ballistic vests to an undercover FBI agent, conspiring to distribute drugs and participating in an alleged murder-for-hire plot in addition to taking part in the alleged campaign contribution fraud and international arms trafficking conspiracy.
Chow, who is being held without bail, is the leader of the Chee Kung Tong, a Chinatown-based civic group that is alleged by prosecutors to have a criminal faction. He is accused of money laundering, conspiring to receive stolen property, and conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes.
One of his lawyers, Curtis Briggs, said after today’s hearing, “There is no logical connection between many of the parties in this indictment.” The charges were combined in one document “to make the indictment seem stronger,” Briggs alleged.
In a news conference Thursday, Briggs said that Chow had committed no new crimes since his release from prison a decade ago and accused the FBI of fabricating the charges against his client.
He said that the Chee Kung Tong is not a criminal organization and was instead a group of citizens that had banded together to do “beautiful things.”
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