State Sen. Leland Yee was arraigned in U.S. District Court Wednesday on charges of weapons trafficking and scheming to defraud citizens as part of an indictment that includes allegations of drug running, money laundering, trafficking in stolen goods and murder for hire.
In addition to the charges against Yee, the indictment unsealed Wednesday names 26 people including Keith Jackson, a 49-year-old former San
Francisco school board member, who is accused of being involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a notorious alleged
Chinatown gang leader, accused of money laundering and trafficking in stolen goods.
Yee, 65, appeared in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins to answer to one count of trafficking in
firearms and illegally importing firearms and six counts of schemes to defraud citizens. The six counts of fraud each carry a possible sentence of
20 years in prison.
He was released Wednesday on a $500,000 bond and stripped of his passport and instructed not to leave the state of California.
Yee was arrested Wednesday morning in a series of FBI raids throughout the Bay Area and arraigned along with 19 of 26 other defendants charged in the criminal complaint.
Yee represents Senate District 8, which includes the western half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County. He declared his candidacy for secretary of state in 2012.
The complaint unsealed Wednesday alleges that between 2012 and 2014, Yee offered to use his office to do favors for undercover FBI agents in
exchange for money that would fund his Secretary of State campaign.
Also arrested this morning was Chow, the president of the Supreme Lodge of Chinese Free Masons in San Francisco.
Chow is facing charges of money laundering, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen property and conspiracy to traffic and trafficking in contraband cigarettes.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said that the charges stem from an investigation that implanted an undercover agent into Chow's organization and uncovered a pattern of alleged racketeering.
State Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on Wednesday called on state Sen. Leland Yee to resign following his arrest and indictment on federal charges including soliciting bribes for political favors and conspiring to traffic in firearms.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, spoke in response to the arrest Wednesday in Sacramento while flanked by a number of his fellow state senators.
Calling the charges in the indictment "sickening," and "shocking and surreal," Steinberg called upon Yee to resign.
"Leave. Don't burden your colleagues and this great institution with your troubles. Leave," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said senators were prepared to move to suspend Yee if he did not resign, and would remove him from all his committee positions.
"I am angry," Steinberg said. "I'm angry on behalf of the people and I'm angry on behalf of the 37 other members whose hard work everyday on behalf of the people is being tarnished because of events outside of their control and outside of our control."
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a fellow San Francisco Democrat, said he was shocked on hearing of Yee's arrest.
A spokesman for Ammiano said the Assemblyman's thoughts on Wednesday were with Yee's family, because he has known them since he and Yee were on the city's school board together.
Despite the shocking nature of the allegations, some experts believe there will not be much political fallout from the expected demise of Yee's political career.
David Latterman, a lecturer on politics for the University of San Francisco, said there shouldn't be heavy repercussions because Yee did not have many close ties to other politicians that could fall.
He also said there aren't likely to be votes on any upcoming bills that would be impacted by Wednesday's indictment.
As for negative impacts on the Democratic party, Latterman said he also expects those to be minimal.
Derek Cressman, who is running against Yee for Secretary of State, disagrees with Latterman's assessment. He said what happened Wednesday should
be a "wake up call," and that, "We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California senate."