The disgraced California State Senator for District 8 appeared briefly in a San Francisco federal court on Tuesday to plead “not guilty” to federal firearm trafficking and political corruption allegations charged against him.
The 65-year-old democrat was flanked by a few of his so-called criminal conspirators, which includes Yee’s former political consultant and alleged hit man Keith Jackson, and San Francisco Chinatown street gang member Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. Jackson also pleaded “not guilty”, while Chow did not enter a plea.
Chow’s attorney Tony Serra called the federal authorities “agent provocateurs” and claimed that the government fabricated his client’s crime and used entrapment to implicate Chow. A convicted felon, Chow is accused of participating in a money laundering scheme in which he bribed Yee with $6,800 in exchange for a Senate proclamation acknowledging Chow’s alleged illegal enterprise.
According to prosecutors in Yee’s case, the veteran lawmaker brokered a $2 million firearms deal with the Islamic extremist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front or MILF, which is based in the southern region of the Philippines. These weapons were intended to be re-sold to an undercover FBI agent posing as an arms buyer.
Yee, who is known to support gun control and finance reform in Sacramento, is accused of accepting bribes from various donors to push their agendas in the Senate and other government agencies. As a result, Yee was suspended by his Senate colleagues along with two other Democrats who have also broken the law in recent months.
Since his arrest on March 26th, Yee has been released on a bond worth $500,000.
Yee’s indictment was sparked by the FBI’s long-time investigation of the Chinatown social club Chee Kung Tong, which federal agents claim is a hub of illegal activity. As the alleged leader of this social club, Chow is facing charges of several felonies including money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug dealing, and gun running among others.
Chow is set to enter his plea on April 15th, while Yee is due to return to court on Friday.
Leland Yee Charged With Firearms Trafficking
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