Disgraced State Sen. Yee Appears in Court, Swarmed by Reporters

The state senator's bail was held at a half million dollars, and he is due back in court on April 8.

Screenshot of KPIX CBS 5 news website shows the senator swarmed by reporters as he leaves a federal courthouse on Monday, March 31, 2014.
Screenshot of KPIX CBS 5 news website shows the senator swarmed by reporters as he leaves a federal courthouse on Monday, March 31, 2014.
By Bay City News Service: 

Suspended State Sen. Leland Yee appeared briefly in federal court in San Francisco Monday and was told that his bail will remain at $500,000 while he awaits a trial on corruption and gun trafficking charges. 

Yee, 65, wearing a dark gray business suit and white shirt, said nothing during the appearance before U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins.   Outside court, reporters and photographers swarmed him to get a glimpse.

Cousins ordered him to return to court on April 8 for either an arraignment on a possible grand jury indictment or, if no indictment is issued, a preliminary hearing on a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors last week. 

Outside of court, Yee's attorney, Paul DeMeester, said he expects an indictment and said Yee will plead not guilty. 

DeMeester declined to comment on whether Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, is considering stepping down from his state Senate post. 

Yee was arrested by the FBI on Wednesday, withdrew his candidacy for secretary of state on Thursday, and was suspended along with two other legislators by the state Senate on Friday. 

"The politics is now behind us. We're concentrating on the case," said DeMeester, who also declined to comment on Yee's defense strategy. 

A grand jury indictment would replace the criminal complaint filed under seal March 24 and is the normal next step in a federal criminal case. It could contain either the same charges as the complaint or additional charges. 

Yee currently faces six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of his honest services by allegedly soliciting and accepting campaign contributions in exchange for using his position to aid the purported donors, who were in fact undercover FBI agents. 

He is also accused of a seventh charge of trafficking in firearms without a license, in connection with an alleged proposal for an undercover agent posing as a Mafia member to buy $2 million worth of guns from an arms dealer in the Philippines. The undercover agent allegedly told Yee and others that he might sell the guns in Africa.

Yee is one of 26 men and women charged in the complaint, which was unsealed Wednesday after Yee and most of the other defendants were arrested. 

The charges include money laundering, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes, trafficking in firearms without a license and an alleged plot by four men to arrange a murder for hire. The alleged murder plot was discussed with an undercover FBI agent and was not carried out. 

Another defendant, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, wearing yellow Alameda County Jail clothing, also appeared briefly today. After Assistant Federal Public Defender Elizabeth Falk said her office had not yet located a lawyer for Chow, Cousins ordered Chow to return the court of U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero Wednesday for identification of a defense attorney. 

Chow, who is being held without bail, is the current leader of San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization and was previously convicted of racketeering and drug distribution conspiracy. 

Yee was originally granted release on the $500,000 bail by Cousins after his arrest on Wednesday. Prosecutors told the magistrate today that a bail study by the court's pre-sentencing staff recommended no change in that decision. Yee is due to post security for part of the amount at the hearing on April 8. 

While declining to comment on Yee's defense strategy, DeMeester said his reading of the 137-page complaint raised questions about why it took so long for prosecutors to file charges in an investigation that began in 2011. 

"A very good question is what took three years," DeMeester said. 

"Another very good question is the allocation of scarce federal resources, fairness to Leland Yee and fairness to the public," the defense attorney said. 

Copyright © 2014 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.
Cynthia Marcopulos April 01, 2014 at 11:31 AM
"Disgraced Senator Yee" -- if that's the case, then every person in Congress should be "disgraced" for taking lobbyists' and corporation money to do their bidding, which they do without restraint, to the detriment of We, the People. There are 30 - 40 lobbyists per member of congress, and no one says "peep" about how rigged our system of government is...


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