Ed Jew extortion trial set for July

March 21, 2008 4:36:20 PM PDT
Former San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew was given a date of July 7 in federal court today for a trial on extortion, fraud and bribery charges.

Jew, 47, who resigned from his supervisor post in January, is accused of trying to extort $84,000 last year from the owners of tapioca drink stores and a dessert cafe in exchange for help in obtaining city permits.

The trial date was set by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston of San Francisco. The trial is expected to last about three weeks.

Outside of court, defense attorney Stuart Hanlon said negotiations with prosecutors for a possible plea bargain are continuing at the same time that the defense is preparing for trial.

"Anything's possible, but right now we're getting ready for the trial," Hanlon said.

Jew, the owner of a Chinatown flower shop, was elected to a seat on the Board of Supervisors representing the city's Sunset District in 2006. He resigned amid allegations he lived in Burlingame rather than a Sunset District house while running for office.

In the federal case, Jew faces two counts of bribery, two counts of mail fraud and one count of extortion. The charges carry possible maximum prison sentences of 10 to 20 years each if he is convicted.

Jew also faces separate state criminal charges in San Francisco Superior Court of perjury, election code violations, voter fraud and providing false documents related to alleged lies about his residence.

Two other proceedings against Jew -- bids by Mayor Gavin Newsom and City Attorney Dennis Herrera to remove him from office because of the residency allegations - were dropped after he agreed to resign.

At today's hearing in the federal case, Illston denied Jew's motion for an evidentiary hearing on potential misconduct by prosecutors related to a possible conflict of interest on the part of Jew's former attorney, Steven Gruel.

Hanlon filed the motion on Feb. 19, but last week came close to withdrawing it when he filed new papers saying that he never would have submitted the motion if he had the information provided by prosecutors in a March 11 response.

Prosecutors said in the response that Jew's assumptions concerning the role of state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, were "demonstrably false."

Yee helped to set off the federal probe in the spring of 2007 when he asked Gruel, a former federal prosecutor, to tell the FBI he had heard allegations that Jew was trying to extort payments from drink shop owners. Gruel later became Jew's defense lawyer for a time after obtaining a waiver from Jew of any conflict of interest.

Hanlon charged last month that prosecutors may have failed to investigate the conflict adequately because Gruel may have once been a lawyer for Yee as well as Jew and because Yee was allegedly "a known political opponent" of Jew and the case may have been "political backstabbing."

Prosecutors said in the March 11 response that Gruel was never a lawyer for Yee and that Yee did not testify before the grand jury that indicted Jew and would not be a trial witness. They included a sworn statement in which Yee said he did not consider Jew a political enemy but "merely a politician with a different viewpoint than mine."

Illston denied the motion today without hearing arguments on it.