Senator Leland Yee, a former San Francisco supervisor and one-time
mayoral candidate, was criminally charged in federal court in San
Francisco with two felony counts of conspiring to import and traffic
in firearms, and six corruption counts.
Yee was released on $500,000 bond and declined to comment on the
A criminal complaint posted online by the U.S. Attorney office for
the Northern District of California alleges that Yee did favors for
an undercover FBI agent in exchange for campaign contributions. The
complaint alleges that Yee also offered to facilitate a meeting
between the undercover agent and an arms dealer, and discussed the
types of weapons that the undercover agent might need.
Yee's arrest deals a body blow to California Democrats, whose
two-thirds majority in the state Senate was eroded when Senator Ron
Calderon, indicted on corruption charges, and State Senator Rod
Wright, found guilty of voter fraud, took paid leaves of absence
earlier this year.
Democrats control large majorities in both houses of the state
legislature and all statewide offices, but having a third senator
under a cloud could seriously undermine the party's ability to push
key projects in an election year.
"If I were advising the Democrats at this time I would say, 'Pull
back everything big until you get the supermajority back,'" said
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of
Southern California. "I wouldn't get into immigration, I would not
get into water or anything they would need to negotiate with the
Republican lawmakers, who hardly have had any say in state
government since the Democrats won a so-called super-majority with
two-thirds of the seats in the legislature, had harsh words not only
for Yee but for the Democratic leadership that has refused to oust
Wright and Calderon, putting them instead on paid leaves of absence.
"It's a shame that some people misuse the privilege to serve the
people that has been entrusted to them," said state senator Andy
Vidak, who has led the Republican charge to oust Wright and
Democratic senators, for their part, called on Yee to resign. "I
want Leland Yee gone," Democratic leader Darrell Steinberg was
quoted as saying in several media outlets, including the San
Federal authorities also arrested Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, alleged
to be the head of a Chinese organized crime syndicate, and two dozen
other people, Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern
District of California, said in statement late Wednesday.
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A political consultant who worked with Yee, Keith Jackson, was also
arrested and faces numerous charges including firearms trafficking,
involvement in a murder-for-hire case and corruption, according to
the complaint and press release.
Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, is running for Secretary of State and
had been considered a strong candidate in a big field of both
Democrats and Republicans. It is not yet clear how his arrest will
affect that race.
In their complaint, prosecutors allege that Yee, trying to raise
money to retire debt from his failed 2011 mayoral campaign, did
favors for an undercover FBI agent who said he needed a phone call
made to the California Department of Public Health in order to be
favorably considered for a contract.
The complaint also alleged that after an undercover agent told
Jackson that he needed to purchase a large number of weapons,
Jackson said Yee could facilitate a meeting with an arms dealer in
exchange for a contribution.
"During a meeting with the undercover agent, Yee and Jackson
allegedly discussed details of the specific types of weapons the
undercover agent was interested in buying and importing," the U.S.
Attorney's office said.
Throughout the early part of the day, the hallway outside of Yee's
office at the state capitol in Sacramento was crowded with reporters
and other onlookers hoping for a glimpse of FBI agents working
behind a closed door. Agents began searching Yee's office early
Wednesday morning, the FBI said.
Lee, a child psychologist with a PhD., emigrated to San Francisco
from China at the age of 3.
(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco and Sharon Bernstein in
Sacramento; editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Ken Wills)
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