California state senator Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday as a part of a FBI sweep that could affect state-wide elections. Yee, who represents California’s 8th district, was released on $500,000 bail and was charged in Federal Court in San Francisco with two counts of conspiring the traffic firearms and six counts of corruption.
Yee is the third Democrat to be charged with corruption this year after state Senator Rod White was found guilty of voter fraud and Senator Ron Calderon was indicted with corruption charges. With Yee being the third, it poses a threat to the democrats two-thirds majority in the state senate and could undermine the democrats ability to push key issues through in an election year.
Also arrested in the sting was Keith Jackson, Yee’s campaign aid. Jackson, a well-known consultant and former San Francisco school board president, was accused of being involved with drug and gun trafficking and a murder-for-hire scheme; he was denied bail and is set to be back in court Monday. Another arrest that was made was Raymond Chow, a former gang leader who is well-known in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He was charged with money laundering, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen property and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.
According to documents released Wednesday, Yee allegedly did favors for an undercover FBI agent in exchange for campaign contributions. Yee allegedly posed as a member of Chinatown’s Ghee Kung Tong, an organization that Chow headed. The documents go on to say that Yee allegedly offered to facilitate a meeting between the undercover agent and an arms dealer and also discussed the type of weapons the agent might need.
In an affidavit by Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua, Yee indicated that he was unhappy with his life and wanted to hide out in the Philippines. “There’s a part of me that wants to be like you,” Yee told the undercover agent.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg Called on Yee to resign or face suspension. Steinberg called on Yee to leave the state senate saying that he should not “burden” his colleagues with his troubles while surrounded by 14 other democratic members of the state senate.
If found guilty Yee could face up to 125 years in prison. Paul DeMeester, Yee’s attorney said, “The top priority was to get the senator released, and we were able to accomplish that,” he went on to say, “The future will hold a lot of work facing this case,” DeMeester declined to comment any further regarding the case, citing that it was too complex due to the nature of the 137-page complaint filed by the FBI.
Although the allegations against Yee are serious, David Latterman, a lecturer at the University of San Francisco said that there shouldn’t be much fall out because Yee did not have any close ties to other politicians. Latterman suggested that Republicans probably could not make too much of a big deal about Yee’s arrest stating, “There’s always be a few bad apples in any party.”
By Nathaniel Pownell
The Kansas City Star