Leland Yee pleads not guilty to federal charges

There were nearly two dozen defendants arranged in court who pleaded not guilty in the case tied to State Sen. Leland Yee.
April 8, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
Suspended State Sen. Leland Yee and nearly two dozen others heard the formal charges against them in court on Tuesday. Yee, former political fundraiser Keith Jackson, and crime figure Raymond "Shrimp Boy" chow, are the high-profile players in this case. They face charges ranging from gun running and money laundering to murder for hire.

The indictment, which lists the formal charges, was released on Friday. All of those in custody had to appear on Tuesday for their arraignments. They all now have lawyers and there seems to be a consensus among them as to what their defense will be.

"The government created the crime. The government financed the crime. And the government ensnared my client by their affirmative acts," said Tony Serra, a defense lawyer.

That's how legendary lawyer Serra characterized the case against Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow -- the self-described reformed Chinatown gangster.

Serra, who is now on Chow's defense team made his first appearance in court with his client. Chow did not enter a plea. He's charged with money laundering and dealing in stolen property. Twenty other defendants who appeared in court, pleaded not guilty. That includes suspended State Sen. Leland Yee who's out on $500,000 bond. He's charged with political corruption and gun running.

Political fundraiser and former San Francisco School board president Keith Jackson, who's also out on bond entered the same plea. He's charged with drugs and weapons trafficking and murder for hire. At the arraignment, there were more lawyers in court than there were defendants.

All those we spoke with, pointed to entrapment as their main defense in a case that began five years ago and involved undercover FBI agents who infiltrated what the government calls "an organized crime ring."

"It sure seems that the government was out there beating the bush and throwing a lot of money at anybody they could get to take the money," said Garrick Lew, a defense lawyer.

Serra went even further with his accusations against the federal case. He said, "And throw in, from our perspective, a modicum of racism, unadulterated racism. We will put the government rightfully on trial. We believe there's all kinds of malfeasance."

Now the next challenge for the court is setting up a system to try and streamline a five-year investigation that resulted in voluminous amounts of documents, wiretaps and secretly recorded conversations.


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