BREAKING: After Two Weeks, Leland Yee’s Criminal Charges Discovered by CNN

 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Leland Yee needed cash. CNN needed credibility. Somehow, both lost their way.

(Is LeLand Yee a Democrat? You won’t find out until the fourth paragraph)

CNN‘s Matt Smith and Jason Carroll hot on the sceneFirst, the ambitious California state senator had to fund his 2011 race for mayor of San Francisco. When he came in fifth, he was stuck with $70,000 in campaign debt that he had to retire before he could mount his next run, for secretary of state — a costly statewide venture.

[PHOTOS] Going in Heavy: The Leland Yee Scandal Weapons Cache You Want To See

And that’s how prosecutors say Yee ended up sitting across from an undercover federal agent in a coffee shop in early March, brokering what he was told was a $2 million arms deal that would include the purchase of shoulder-fired missiles from Islamic rebels in the Philippines.

CNN Discovers Leland Yee Arrest Two Weeks Later

“Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money,” Yee told the agent in a conversation recounted in a 137-page arrest affidavit. “Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods.”


Associated Press

The veteran Democrat, an advocate for gun control and campaign finance reform in Sacramento, is now one of about two dozen people charged in a sprawling racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco. His co-defendants include a former San Francisco school board president and a previously-convicted Chinatown mobster dubbed “Shrimp Boy.”

Inside the Chinatown Gang That Lured Leland Yee into Arms Trafficking

He’s accused of putting his public office up for sale, and promising to push donors’ agendas in Sacramento and in his district in exchange for contributions. The allegations have stunned his constituents in San Francisco and its suburbs and cast a shadow over his state Senate colleagues, who have suspended Yee and two other Democrats who have run afoul of the law in recent months.

Yee has been free on $500,000 bond since his arrest. Though neither he nor his lawyer have commented to CNN on the allegations, the senator pleaded not guilty in a court appearance Tuesday morning. And he got a sort of backhanded defense from longtime California powerbroker Willie Brown.

“I don’t think any of the allegations are anyplace close to any reality,” Brown told CNN — but he said that’s because Yee lacked the clout to fulfill any of the pledges he made.

“There’s no way anyone who is seriously trying to influence government by way of money would do it with Leland. Period. He couldn’t deliver anything,” said Brown, San Francisco’s former mayor and onetime speaker of the State Assembly.

‘Careful and cautious’

The 65-year-old Yee came to the feds’ attention during a five-year probe of the Chee Kung Tong, a Chinatown social club that agents describe as the hub of a coast-to-coast criminal enterprise. The original focus of the probe was the club’s “dragonhead,” or leader, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow — a man the affidavit puts at the head of a racketeering ring that had its hands in money laundering, drug dealing, gunrunning, murder-for-hire plots and trafficking in stolen liquor and contraband cigarettes.

Chow’s lawyer, Tony Serra, proclaimed his client’s innocence to reporters outside the courtroom Tuesday.

Chow had pleaded guilty to racketeering in 2000, got a lighter sentence for cooperating with the government and still wears an ankle monitoring bracelet, court documents say. In this case, he fell victim to “agent provocateurs” who tried to lure him into a crime, Serra, said after Tuesday’s hearing…(read more)

CNN Correspondent Jason Carroll reported from San Francisco; Matt Smith reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Augie Martin and Jim Castel contributed to this report.

6 Comments on “BREAKING: After Two Weeks, Leland Yee’s Criminal Charges Discovered by CNN”

  1. […] BREAKING: After Two Weeks, Leland Yee’s Criminal Charges Discovered by CNN → […]

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