Citizen Yee cops plea

Submitted: Jul 02, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board



But will he sing?



After delighting in the rich aroma of political corruption, we decided to scan the press to see if there was more to the story of the downfall of state Sen. Leland Yee, D-SF, than his connection to Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, the colorfully named alleged Chinatown gangster or blameless import-exporter, depending on who you talk to.

None other than Willie Brown, who knows the difference between class and style, came to Yee's defense last year, rendering his succinct judgment. On the other hand, lest we forget, Willie has his reasons for despising the FBI, which at the behest of his numerous political enemies, had the former Speaker of the state Assembly under investigation half the time he held the office. They never pinned anything on him, but they added a tone of paranoia to the state Capitol it hasn't been able to shake since.

In our own records, we found a forgotten story of Yee's bill to open up CSU and UC foundations to public view, after they had been exposed making loans to former board members, etc. -- the usual sort of corruption in the amount of hundreds of thousands. Yee pled in part to laundering less than $7,000 through his secretary.

Has anybody seen a list of the board members of the UC Merced Foundation lately? We wonder if they will soon be speculating in real estate ventures as the market picks up.

And if he sings, will anybody we know be in the verses of his song?-- blj




San Jose Mercury News

Leland Yee pleads guilty in corruption case






By Howard Mintz

SAN FRANCISCO -- Closing a dark chapter in California politics and capping the downfall of a prominent Bay Area legislator, former state Sen. Leland Yee on Wednesday pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering charge that is expected to land him in a federal prison cell for at least several years.

The 66-year-old Yee cut a plea deal with federal prosecutors, avoiding a looming August trial date but forcing him to admit he took payments in return for promises to use his political clout for a host of powerful interests, from NFL owners to medical marijuana businesses. Dressed in a dark suit and calm enough to chat casually with reporters before entering his guilty plea, Yee confessed in his plea agreement that he used his bids for secretary of state and San Francisco mayor as racketeering enterprises to extort bribes for his cash-starved campaigns.

The plea deal was presented in court here to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who will sentence the former Democratic state senator from San Francisco on Oct. 21.

Yee was set to go on trial on political corruption, money laundering and gun trafficking charges in August along with three other defendants: political consultant Keith Jackson, his son, Brandon Jackson, and former sports agent Marlon Sullivan.

Those defendants also pleaded guilty Wednesday under separate plea deals with the U.S. attorney's office. Keith Jackson, a well-connected San Francisco political consultant accused of being at the center of Yee's dealings, pleaded guilty to the same racketeering charge as the defrocked state legislator.

Yee's plea deal avoids a detailed exploration at trial of his political dealings, and could be used to coax some leniency from the judge. But it also spares the government an attack on its sprawling four-year covert investigation, which included FBI undercover agents doling out bags of cash and countless hours of audio and video recordings, including some that crossed paths with numerous high-profile figures who were not implicated in any wrongdoing, including former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.

Court documents show that Yee did not agree to a particular sentencing range in his plea deal, meaning his lawyers and prosecutors can wrangle over a recommendation to the judge. However, Keith Jackson agreed to a sentencing range of 6 to 10 years, which lawyers familiar with the case say is a likely guidepost for Yee. Yee also agreed to forfeit about $33,000 seized from his campaign accounts to the government.

Yee and his lawyer left court without commenting. Yee's March 2014 arrest on corruption charges shook Sacramento, coming on the heels of a federal indictment of fellow state Sen. Ronald Calderon for accepting bribes. Yee, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, had to cut short his quest for statewide office, and the Senate suspended him while his case unfolded.

An FBI probe into Asian organized crime in San Francisco led authorities to Yee's dealings with Keith Jackson, whose legal team issued a statement saying his role in the case started with the FBI luring him with promises of "great wealth."

"Keith Jackson has entered an honest plea to what he actually did when the FBI embroiled him in their activities," James Brosnahan, his lawyer, said.

Brandon Jackson pleaded guilty to a separate racketeering charge that included an allegation he offered to arrange a murder-for-hire. His potential prison sentence is expected to range between four and eight years. Sullivan pleaded to a racketeering charge that carries up to an eight-year sentence.

In the plea agreement, Yee admitted that he traded his political influence for bribes, typically offered by undercover FBI agents. Yee, among other things, admitted he agreed to influence legislation for would-be medical marijuana businesses in California, an NFL team owner trying to exempt pro athletes from the state's workers' compensation laws and a fictitious FBI concocted software firm seeking government technology contracts.

The racketeering charge also contained allegations Yee tried to arrange an illegal international arms deal through the Philippines in exchange for money. Yee confirmed his role in that bizarre crime as well.

Yee admitted, for example, accepting an $11,000 cash bribe in June 2013 from an undercover FBI agent to help sponsor statewide marijuana legislation, according to his plea agreement. In addition, he admitted he laundered a $6,800 contribution to his secretary of state campaign in 2014, court records show.

The overall case is not over, and the role of co-defendant and reputed gang leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow will become central as it goes forward. Most of the racketeering and other charges in the indictment are connected to Chow and his Chee Kung Ton organization. Barring further plea deals, that trial involving dozens of defendants will take place later.




San Francisco Chronicle

Let's everybody calm down about the Leland Yee ruckus

By Willie L. Brown, Jr.

Published 3:44 pm, Saturday, April 19, 2014

I'm starting to feel sorry for Leland Yee. He is holed up in his house and everyone thinks of him as the reincarnation of Al Capone.

Give the guy a break. When all is said and done, his alleged crimes come down to taking campaign contributions in return for issuing proclamations, using campaign funds to set up a meeting and taking campaign funds for writing a letter.

Never did he sell his vote, steal public money or actually put money in his own pocket, as far as I can tell.


None of Yee's decisions affected the public.

I've gone over the FBI's criminal complaint and, from what I can see, the biggest crime he was accused of was trying hustle some undercover FBI agents who were out to get alleged Chinatown gang leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.

The 137-page indictment says nothing about Yee being involved with the drug and murder-for-hire charges leveled at some of the others.

And there was apparently never a gun-running operation involving him. It was allegedly just Yee thinking he could hustle some money, that he was ripping off someone who was not very smart. Instead it was an FBI agent.

When all is said and done, Yee appears to be a petty thief - the guy that walks past the fruit stand and, when you're not looking, takes an apple and keeps walking.

He should not be in government, but that doesn't mean he is dangerous.

And sending him to jail is a waste of time. He is already screwed for life...



Badlands Journal

End secrecy for campus nonprofits

Public should have access to how money is spent...Editorial


A bill is working its way through the Legislature that would give the public more oversight over how foundations affiliated with public universities receive and spend millions in gifts, property and funds.



We support Sen. Leland Yee's Senate Bill 218, which would close a major loophole under which these "auxiliary organizations" are not subject to California's Public Records Act.

In 2001, The Fresno Bee was denied information concerning the identity of individuals and companies that purchased luxury suites at the Save Mart Center arena at Fresno State.

The denial resulted in CSU v. Superior Court (McClatchy Company), in which the Court opined that although it recognized university auxiliaries ought to be covered by the CPRA and that its ruling was counter to the obvious legislative intent of the CPRA, the rewriting of the statute was a legislative responsibility.

Now Yee's bill would fix that.

This issue has also come up regarding a foundation at CSU Sacramento. University Enterprises spent $27,000 on a kitchen remodel for a house that Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez purchased. And it gave him $233,000 in personal loans at an attractive 1.697% interest rate.

And news reports this month have revealed that a Sonoma State University foundation made personal loans to a former foundation board member -- and might be out more than $1 million because he can't repay.

In all three of these cases, the money didn't come from the university directly. And that means the public is shut out from getting details on the public's business -- where did the money come from and who decided to use it that way?

Currently, these nonprofits operate in a netherworld, outside of the normal rules for public accountability. They are separate legal and financial entities but are supposed to contribute to the educational mission of the public campuses. All of their activities are under the direct control of the colleges and universities, with oversight by the campus president and boards.

For the most part, they dole out scholarships and grants and fund student and faculty programs. But when it comes to details about how the money is being spent, these nonprofits often deny public requests for information. They say they are not part of the university and are not state agencies subject to the public records act.

Under SB 218, public college and university auxiliary organizations would be subject to the California Public Records Act -- exempting anonymous donations, commercial enterprises on campus (like Taco Bell) and any trade secrets and proprietary information.

The bill passed the Senate 35-1. It has received unanimous support in Assembly committees and awaits a vote on the floor.

But the battle isn't over. The colleges and universities are mightily opposing the bill.

The issue will land at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. Those who believe that the public should have access to vital information about the conduct of the people's business on public college and university campuses will have to weigh in.

Secrecy lends itself to abuses; access allows checks to ensure that public purposes truly are being served.


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