All 29 defendants in massive corruption case appear in court

All 29 defendants in a massive corruption case involving a state senator and reputed gangster appeared in federal court Thursday.
April 17, 2014 6:53:37 PM PDT
A story that sounds like a movie script is slowly grinding its way to trial. All of the 29 defendants in the massive corruption case involving suspended State Senator Leland Yee and reputed gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow appeared in federal court Thursday.

With so many defendants, lawyers, and documents, the judge is trying to set up a system to manage what could be an unwieldy trial. What makes it even harder is that not everyone's on the same page.

The frustration is beginning to show. There are 29 defendants, even more lawyers, a 137 page indictment, and voluminous amounts of evidence from a five year investigation, which include secretly recorded videotapes and wiretaps.

The overriding question now is discovery. Just how will the government present all of that information to the lawyers?

Prosecutors want the judge to issue a protective order; a ruling that would keep all the evidence confidential once they're given to the defendants' lawyers.

Tony Serra, attorney for reputed gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, says the government just wants to protect its informants and undercover agents.

"If that is what they're really seeking to suppress, I'm on the opposite side," Serra said. I've indicated I'm not going to sign anything."

But other lawyers like Jim Brosnahan who represents former San Francisco School Board President Keith Jackson, says if a protective order enables him to get all the evidence quickly, he probably won't object.

"We want the discovery right away," Brosnahan said. "The government has filed a 137 page affidavit. We question each and every word in that affidavit and we want to get discovery and these lawyers and these defendants are entitled to that."

The judge seemed to agree with prosecutors that if there were no protective order, it would unfairly expose other public figures which undercover agents may have interviewed but never charged.

Videotapes, after all, are damaging pieces of evidence.

Remember disgraced former San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew counting dirty money as he was secretly being videotaped?

And another in the 1990s of Marion Barry, the former mayor of Washington DC, taking long drags from a crack pipe in a hotel room?

And don't forget Abscam, the granddaddy of all undercover videos showing congressmen and other politicians accepting bribes from FBI agents posing as Arab businessmen.

Lawyers will meet with prosecutors Monday to try and iron out an agreement. The judge says he'll issue a ruling after that meeting. But he indicated in court that he's leaning toward issuing a protective order.


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