The indictment adds to the troubles facing state Senator Leland
Yee, who was arrested last week and criminally charged along with
two dozen others in the same case. He has since been suspended with
Yee, 65, is the third California state senator to face criminal
charges this year in separate cases that have cost Democrats a
cherished two-thirds legislative majority in an election year and
prompted them to cancel a major fundraiser planned for this weekend.
Senate Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg, who has said that the
charges against Yee "sickened" him, on Friday renewed calls for the
senator to resign.
"Senator Steinberg renews his demand that Senator Yee resign, and
resign now," spokesman Rhys Williams said in an email to Reuters.
The party, which dominates both houses of the legislature and holds
all statewide offices, effectively lost its two-thirds majority in
the senate last month. Senators Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright
were placed on paid leave of absence after Calderon was indicted on
corruption charges and Wright was convicted of lying about living in
the district he sought to represent. Both were later suspended with
pay along with Yee.
"The people of California deserve elected officials who embody the
highest levels of integrity," said Republican senate leader Bob
Huff, who pushed for suspending the three senators. "It is very
troublesome that we have three separate Senators in one year
convicted or charged with various felonies."
In canceling a glittering fundraiser that was slated to begin on
Friday at the picturesque Torrey Pines Golf Course overlooking the
Pacific Ocean near San Diego, Democrats acknowledged "extraordinary
breaches of the public trust" in the three cases.
"These are unprecedented times and they demand that we take a step
back and take stock of how we all do the people's business and
balance it against the demands of running for office," Steinberg and
lawmaker Kevin de Leon said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
CASH AND WEAPONS
In a 31-page indictment that sharpens but does not materially change
the allegations against Yee, he is charged with six counts of
corruption and one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms.
Last week, his lawyer said he planned to plead not guilty, but
yesterday Yee hired a new attorney, who did not respond to a request
for comment on Friday.
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Among the allegations contained in the indictment is that the
one-time San Francisco mayoral candidate accepted cash from an
undercover FBI agent seeking to purchase illegal weapons.
The indictment says Yee and his campaign consultant, Keith Jackson,
sought to enrich themselves and pay off debt from Yee's failed
mayoral campaign by accepting bribes, both in cash and by check,
from undercover FBI agents.
In one instance, Yee wrote a letter on behalf of a technology
company that an undercover FBI agent claimed to represent, and in
another he helped an undercover FBI agent who said he was working to
legalize marijuana in the state, the indictment says.
In the indictment, the two men are also accused of offering to help
another undercover FBI agent to obtain illegal guns.
Yee was arrested along with more than two dozen others last week in
a broad sweep of suspected organized crime and corruption activity
in San Francisco. Among those charged in the indictment is Raymond
"Shrimp Boy" Chow, a Chinatown figure who is accused of money
laundering and conspiracy.
An indictment is likely to make it more difficult for Yee's attorney
to argue that the charges should be dismissed, because the process
for fighting an indictment is different than the process for
fighting a simple criminal charge.
Yee is scheduled to appear in San Francisco court next week to be
arraigned on the charges, according to court documents. Each of the
charges against him carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in
prison, according to a press release issued Friday by the U.S.
Attorney for the Northern District of California, whose office will
be prosecuting the case.
(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)
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