Former State Sen. Leland Yee sent to prison for 5 years in gun-running, ‘shrimp boy’ case

Yee once railed against violent video games and political corruption

Former State Sen. Leland Yee was sentenced today to five years in prison by a federal judge in connection with a range of charges including that he accepted bribes and once offered to smuggle weapons from the Philippines for undercover FBI agents, according to Howard Mintz, legal affairs writer for the San Jose Mercury News, who attending the hearing.

Leland Yee sentenced to five years in federal prison in political corruption case

— Howard Mintz (@hmintz) February 24, 2016

Last July, Yee, 67, pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in connection with two criminal enterprises in a detailed agreement. He faced up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution for each of the two counts. His plea deal reduced that possible sentence.

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to sentence Yee to eight years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $25,000.

In a lengthy sentencing memo (which you can and should read below), prosecutors outlined what they saw as a pattern of bad behavior by Lee that went far beyond the charges he pleaded guilt to.

His dishonesty in the early stages of the investigation, they wrote, “demonstrate a venal attitude toward his position as an elected public official and a willingness to abuse his position of trust in any number of ways. They also reveal a disconnect between the face that Yee puts out to the public and his true nature and character. They necessarily cast a shadow over his career as a public servant and legislation he has sponsored.”

James Lassart, Yee’s lawyer, asked that the sentence range from four to five years. He argued that Yee’s criminal actions were out of character, that there is little likelihood he will return to crime when released and that Yee needs to care for his ill wife.

“He has spent his entire life helping others,” Lassart wrote in the sentencing memo (also located below). “Indeed, incarceration at his age and with his wife’s grave physical condition does not make sense and a sentence of home confinement would be equally efficient and less costly than incarceration.

“Yee did not commit the charged offense out of greed. He did not live a lavish lifestyle or desire expensive things. Yee did not directly benefit financially for providing his assistance to further criminal activity. Unfortunately, Yee did not adhere to his lifetime principles of honesty and integrity.”

During the sentencing hearing, after hearing both sides, Judge Breyer said he didn’t think leniency was deserved in the case.

Sentencing guidelines ranged from four years, three months to 5 years, 11 months.

The case detailed

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Yee, a Democrat who represented San Mateo County and part of San Francisco County, was a vocal opponent of video game violence and the game industry practices, as well as a proponent of gun control. Yee sponsored the 2005 bill that became the basis for Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a 2011 Supreme Court decision that ruled that video games are protected speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

He was arrested in March, 2014, during a morning FBI raid.

According to the indictment against Yee, he and defendant Keith Jackson raised campaign funds for both Yee’s Secretary of State campaign and run for Mayor by seeking donations from undercover FBI agents, in exchange for a range of requests. Yee’s arrest and subsequent indictment is part of a larger investigation into Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and the Chee Kung Tong organization. Chee Kung Tong, a predominantly Chinese American association, based in Chinatown in San Francisco, was formed primarily for civic purposes to benefit the communities of Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans, according to court records. The group has members who are only involved in the civic functions, and others who are involved in criminal activity, according to court records.

Last month, Chow was convicted on charges of racketeering, murder and other crimes.

Why Yee believes he should get leniency

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