In what is surely one of the more ironic stories in recent history, Senator Leland Yee (D-CA), a staunch proponent and advocate of g*n control legislation and the disarmament of the American public, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for weapons trafficking.
Yee was originally busted by the FBI for conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms. At the time of the bust, the AP reported of Yee also accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and cash payments to provide introductions, help a client get a contract and influence legislation.
Federal prosecutors also state Yee agreed to perform official acts in exchange for the money, including one instance in which he introduced a businessman to state legislators who had significant influence over pending medical marijuana legislation. In exchange, the businessman — who was actually an undercover FBI agent — agreed to donate thousands to Yee’s campaign fund, according to the original indictment.
Yee acknowledged in the plea deal that he was guilty of defrauding “citizens of honest services” and was involved in a scheme to traffic firearms in exchange for thousands in campaign donations to the senator. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering.
Yee acknowledged accepting $11,000 in exchange for setting up a meeting with another state senator, $10,000 for recommending someone for a grant, and $6,800 for providing a certificate on California State Senate letterhead honoring the Ghee Kung Tong. He also acknowledged that he discussed helping an undercover FBI agent buy automatic weapons from the Philippines that were intended to be brought to the U.S. for distribution.
In all, 26 people, including former school board president Keith Jackson, were indicted on charges related to an extensive crime ring headed by well-known Chinatown figure Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a flamboyant leader of a Chinese fraternal organization – the Ghee Kung Tong. House of Cards much?
Yee served in the ranks of Bay Area politics since the late 1980s, when he was elected to the San Francisco School Board. He then went on to sit on the city’s Board of Supervisors and in the state Assembly. He became the first Asian American speaker pro tem in 2004, making him the second-highest ranking Democrat in the California assembly at the time. From 2006 onwards, Yee served as a state senator with plans to push towards a secretary of state campaign when his political aspirations were derailed by having his dirty laundry exposed and a federal indictment in March 2014.
In court, Yee begged mercy from Senior District Court Judge Charles Breyer. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Breyer was not having it and called the weapons allegations against Yee unfathomable and said it was frightening that Yee would be willing to go entirely against his public position on g**s in exchange for money.
Yee stated to Judge Breyer – “I hope that in your sentencing of me, you will look at my entire life and not just these crimes I have committed. In the 67 years of my life, I have devoted much of it to the work of the community, to people here in San Francisco and in the state of California.”
Judge Breyer responded during the hearing, stating – “I don’t feel I should be lenient. The crimes that you committed have resulted in essentially an attack on democratic institutions. It must be that the public has trust in the integrity of the institution, and Mr. Yee, you abused that trust.”
Judge Breyer went on to call Yee’s actions “vile” and the arms dealings particularly “hypocritical” given the politician’s history of g*n control advocacy.
Still, Breyer’s sentence fell on the low end of guidelines that called for a prison term of between four years and 9 months and six years.
Prosecutors had recommended an eight-year sentence. Yee’s attorneys had called for no more than five years and three months behind bars, saying Yee had a history of public service and his wife was ill. Yee has been free pending sentencing. Breyer ordered him to surrender in 30 days. Yee and his attorney declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Yee told CBS two years before his arrest – “It is extremely important that individuals in the state of California do not own assault weapons. I mean that is just so crystal clear — there is no debate, no discussion.”
As a legislator, Yee supported strict g*n control laws and was named to the Brady Campaign’s G*n Violence Prevention Honor Roll.
Prosecutor Susan Badger said during the sentencing hearing that Yee was looking for money to win the race for secretary of state as he was being forced from the state Senate by term limits.
Badger stated of Yee – “Senator Yee abused that trust and faith in the worst possible way. it wasn’t actually for personal financial wealth. It was to retain power as a public official.”