(Adithya Sambamurthy/ The Center for Investigative Reporting)

State Senator Leland Yee has been indicted on arms trafficking and public corruption charges. The Democratic senator –whose district includes San Francisco and part of San Mateo County– is one of 26 people, including former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson, charged in the FBI investigation. Charges include murder- for-hire, money laundering and drug-dealing.

Scott Detrow's annotated FBI affidavit:

Guests:
Scott Detrow, KQED's Sacramento bureau chief
Marisa Lagos, political reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle
Nathan Halverson, reporter with the Investigative Reporting Program, UC Berkeley

  • colinvgallagher

    An indictment is not the same thing as the charges having been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Whatever happened to due process? Isn’t it a little craven of Senators Steinberg and Leno to call for Yee’s resignation without giving their colleague a chance to present his version of the events, including whether he had been the victim of FBI entrapment? Is having yet one more state senator charged with a felony really going to have any significant effect on public perception of the state legislature as a corrupt institution?

    • Skip Conrad

      Let Ed Jew testify. He’s already done his time.

      • Chuck

        If Senator Lee should resign, can Ed Lee appoint Ed Jew?

    • Bob Fry

      Representatives should be held to strict standards. If one is indicted for a significant crime, as in this case, resignation is called for. As far as entrapment, it’s one thing to be entrapped by, say, a law enforcement officer posing as a hooker (relatively harmless), quite another to be caught arranging arms deals.

      Furthermore Mr. Yee cannot represent his Assembly district now. Resignation would presumably allow an appointment or special election so the citizens can once again be represented.

      • colinvgallagher

        San Francisco is a pretty forgiving city. We kept on our sheriff even after he pled guilty to a domestic violence-related charge of false imprisonment. Most people would regard that as a significant crime and find it a little unseemly that Mirkarimi still oversees the county jail, including those incarcerated for domestic violence offenses. And the citizens in Yee’s state senate district are the same people who elected him. They deserve to have him as their senator for the rest of his term rather than saddle the rest of us with the cost of a special election.

        Why would Yee resign anyway since that may be his one piece of leverage in negotiating a plea bargain with federal authorities?

  • Skip Conrad

    I have long suspected Leland Yee to be a crook. There were two incidents that led me to this conclusion. I worked with him briefly during the dot com period, when he was District 4 Supervisor, on a community effort to save the Rivendale school from being demolished and replaced by a new 4 story building of retail space and condo units. The end result of our efforts was that the height of the new building was reduced from 4 stories to 3 stories. Yet he acted like this was a victory, meanwhile the students had to go elsewhere, and the teachers and employees lost their jobs.

    The second incident involved Ed Jew. When he was going off to the big house, he stated that what he had done was merely the usual way business was conducted in the District, and that he had been mentored in this type of activity, and that he would name names. I never heard him actually finger anybody. But who would be the obvious person to show him the ropes and serve as a mentor, if not the previous occupier of the Office of Supervisor – yours truly Leland Yee.

    I cringe at the thought of his holding the office of Secretary of State, and his having potential influence over our election results, and voter fraud.

  • erictremont

    Yee has long been one of the most self-righteous and sanctimonious left-wing Democrats in the Bay Area. If these charges are true, he is also a world class hypocrite.

    • Guest

      It’s ironic that a crook was against video game violence. It seems all too easy to take a symbolic stance on symbolic violence, when one comes from a world of violence allegedly.

      • thucy

        Like DiFi always yammering on about women’s rights while supporting policies that have killed tens of thousands of Iraqi women.
        It’s a distraction – intentional – from the larger issues.

  • Kurt thialfad

    He was involved in that sharks fin soup controversy. The legislation he introduced in the Assembly and the Senate, always struck me as being kind of wierd.

    • thucy

      On the other hand, you gotta love a criminal take-down that involves a gangster with the nickname of “Shrimp Boy”.

      • Bill Recto

        How many court rooms will Yee be in im not a party hack im independent. Its not just courtrooms here in the USA that yee will have to go to he has to go to court in other countries for Terrorism charges.

    • Sanfordia113

      Why shark fin banned, but not shark meat? This was anti-Asian from the same left-wing fruiticals that want to restrict student enrollment with Asian heritage at UCLA/Cal.

      • Kurt thialfad

        It’s the manner in which the fin is harvested. The fin is removed and the shark is left to die. It would not be objectionable if the entire shark was cooked and eaten. This practice is along the lines of rhino tusk, etc. Abominable by any culture.

      • jurgispilis

        Of the 7 billion people on the planet, 4 billion are Asian, a majority group if ever I saw one. The largest number of smart people will always be Asian because of the numbers. Likewise, more dumb people will Asian because of the numbers as well.
        Regarding UC, I am more horrified by efforts to recruit foreign students and out-of-state students – because they will pay more!! UC should give priority to students who are legal residents, according to its charter.

        • Sanfordia113

          International origin provides much more diversity than merely skin color ever could. If the UC system is to impose any quotas, it should be to have at least 33% international students from all parts of the globe.

          • jurgispilis

            No, UC is a public state university. It should have zero international students. The objective is not diversity, it is education – basic higher education – for state residents. Let Stanford have 33% international students, if they want.

          • Sanfordia113

            If that were the case, there wouldn’t be illegal immigrants admitted, nor underqualified “minority” students. Xenophobic rednecks like you are toxic for higher education.

          • jurgispilis

            Yes, true, we should not admit illegal aliens to state supported public universities. We also should not be admitting unqualified students, regardless of background. A private university can pursue any admission policy it desires. As far as making biased comments about any personal fear I may have of Linda Lawless, or the color of my neck, that is really inappropriate.

      • Matt

        Legislation to ban shark finning is not anti-Asian. It is an attempt to protect the oceans and the ecosystems and species within. Asians are the market for shark fin. That market is resulting in the massive slaughter of sharks, damaging the planet. Asian people are the big market for ivory now, resulting in the slaughter of thousands of elephants in Africa now. Are you gonna say that legislation to ban ivory exports or to make killing elephants illegal is anti-Asian? Traditional Chinese medicine holds that ground up tiger penis gives men virility. Are you gonna take the position that legislation to protect tigers is anti-Asian? Or do you think that all the tigers should be killed so some Asian guys who can’t get it up can eat ground up tiger penis? Get over your persecution complex and take a bigger picture approach.

  • thucy

    I’ve long believed that California politics, esp. SF, were every bit as corrupt as New York and New Jersey. The difference is that back East, it’s discovered more frequently because both citizens and investigative journalists pay more attention.
    In SF, it’s considered highly impolite to “kick the tires” on politicians – or on anyone in a position of authority. So here we have Leland Yee’s criminal activity unearthed by a FEDERAL investigation, not a local reporter. I’m not surprised.
    How long will it take local reporters to look at – really dig into the files – on Ed Lee, SFPD, and Rose Pak? How long will it take to really investigate Newsom?
    The only politician I know of in SF who is really asking questions of those in power: Jeff Adachi.

    • On Aboat

      Wow – one arrest, and SF is as corrupt at New York and New Jersey? Call me back when California has back to back governors convicted, like Illinois.

    • Robert Thomas

      Without commenting on thucy’s personal assessment of regional equivalence, I take the point that local journalism’s crucial responsibility in uncovering malfeasance isn’t always best served by major dailies (who, though well observed to be under the pressure of financial upheavals, still have superior resources).

      I’m a San Jose Native and am proud of the South Bay’s by no means perfect but in my view very satisfactory record of electing trustworthy officers. The recent, depressing spectacle of the prosecution of George Shirakawa Jr. for various offenses wasn’t uncovered by the briefly formidable Mercury News, however, but by the excellent weekly Metro. In that affair, not much discernment was required to recognize that the Mercury News had an… “affinity” for Shirakawa, who, despite many grumblings among those in his sphere during his tenure as Franklin-McKinley School Board member, SJ City Councilman, Vice-Mayor and County Supervisor, attached to himself the halo of his very well respected father, the late George, Sr.

      The blindness to the younger Shirakawa’s behavior that afflicted some community leaders was also suffered (one might think conveniently, for the sake of a major’s coveted access) at the Mercury News.

    • Chuck

      I hate to resort to the cop out but it is the electorate that is to blame. When news folks expose waste, incompetence and corruption the politicians do nothing and still get reelected based on the main qualifications: name recognition and endorsement by the same professional politicians and the small group of politically active folks who are even worse. Few vote and those that do are uninformed and limited to the top of the ticket. Voting is the extent of their civic involvement.

  • Sanfordia113

    Speaking of Pay for Play, please tell us what constitutes “criminal?” At what stage would Mayor Ed Lee risk criminal charges over a Warriors Stadium on the Waterfront?

    • Chuck

      It seems it is all pay for play but a politician just has to make sure they comply with the letter of the law and not get caught

  • Bill Recto

    This is crazy on one hand Yee is painted as a moderate democrat in front of the cameras. But now some of the Philippine news outlets say he’s charged with terrorism on weapons charges in the Philippines. Thats crazy on one hand he tells us he s a anti gun guy but the FBI and Homeland Security evidence says another. But since I am in Sacramento the FBI raiding Downtown Offices is not news to me.

  • Why is that surprising? This is a man who along with his colleagues sets the rules for the rest of us. Why would we not expect him to believe himself above the laws that apply to the rest of us?

  • amyj1276

    The massive elephant in the room that would help a lot of this is money in politics. And the amount of money that is required to be “successful,” or at least appear successful, especially in San Francisco, is disgusting. We will never get rid of corruption when it comes to power, but if we move toward public financing for elections and get rid of the money part, I think we would significantly decrease it.

  • jurgispilis

    I agree that some of his legislation, sharks fin soup notwithstanding, did appear a bit bizarre.

    1) His voter registration idea to funnel all government web traffic to a voter registration website is first on my list. I regard voting as a sacred right, really a privilege that can be taken away under certain circumstances, and his idea would encourage those unqualified to vote to register. You don’t need to show ID when registering to vote, just like you don’t need to show ID when casting your vote. And we all know unqualified person have illegally cast ballots, because such persons have come forward and admitting that. His bill would encourage voter fraud, IMHO.

    2) Interpretive language services at hospitals should be paid for by the patient. It should be put on the patient’s bill, and not be a service paid for as a part of hospital administration like janitorial services. Otherwise, you a removing an incentive for foreigners to learn English.

    3) Human trafficking should be stopped. But you aren’t to going to stop it by giving the victim a special visa. A plane or bus ticket to family, yes. Otherwise, you providing an incentive for human trafficking.

    And this dovetails with Obama’s DACA program. If a child is smuggled into the US by his 2 biological parents, one can have much sympathy. But when the child is smuggled by an uncle, or by a guardian, or by a friend, 3rd party, coyote, drug kingpin? No distinction is being made regarding who is doing the smuggling, and some 2 million persons, most of whom are no longer minors, are being giving these DACA visas, with nobody checking that they were indeed smuggled by both biological parents. This is giving incentives for encouraging human smuggling, not discouraging it – which should be the goal.

    • geraldfnord

      2.) What is more important, that the ill stranger who dwells among us have more incentive to learn English or that they [sic] be able to communicate with the doctors and nurses and therapists trying to get them better? Maybe they _should_ be liable for the interpreter, as a matter of fiscal survival for the hospital…but _not_ as an instrument of pedagogy.

      3.) Some sort of at-least-temporary special status for victims of trafficking is necessary because traffickers use the threat of deportation (to a country where their friends can easily take reprisals) against victims who give indications of wanting to turn them in.

      (My pet solution to illegal immigration: green cards for every worker—and deferred status for their-co-workers, so they don’t beat them up) who turns in their employer for the labour law violations that are the very point of hiring illegals…it scales with the size of the problem, and if we detest the immigrant for breaking the law, how much worse should we hold the U.S. citizen who breaks the law?)

      • jurgispilis

        3) The gangs are here, the guns are here, the reprisals are here. Dude, you are so naive.

        Regarding your green cards for every worker solution, what happens when the alien stops working? does the green card expire?

  • geraldfnord

    When one party controls an area without much hope of opposition, _all_ people who want a career in politics will flock to it and at least parrot its doctrines, for reasons ranging from enriching themselves to furthering the public good—in Massachusetts, the Democratic Party’s office-holders include everyone from serious bearers of the public trust to graft-ridden stains to right-wing Republicans (in all but name).

    It is not about liberals’ wishing to set ourselves up as overlords, but rather of our not policing our ranks adequately—and, for that matter, not owning a copyright on the word, as surely as that people of many stripes (Tories, theocrats, Babbitts, ‘libert’arians,…) and all characters can call themselves ‘conservatives’.

  • Bob

    San Francisco is considered one of the most corrupt, inbred municipal political systems in the United States, anecdotally at least. “Banana Republic” comes to mind. Yet our reporting class rarely addresses these issues. Think about things like the Twitter tax break, Ron Conway and Ed Lee…the contractors/developers relationships with Planning, the Board of Supervisors, etc.

  • thucy

    I take Marisa Lagos’ point about the difficulty for reporters taking on more ambitious investigative reporting, but no one at the Chronicle even seems to be trying, when compared to reporters at less well-funded WNYC or even The (tiny!) Bergen Record which broke most of Christie-Gate. If Chron reporters at least TRIED, there would be far less room for criticism, and she has no grounds to “take offense.”

    • Bob

      Totally agree. Whenever someone, anyone in any field, “takes offense” at legitimate criticism you know there’s at least an ounce of truth to that criticism. Hate to say it but my go to resource on local stories has become the NY Times bay area section and the LA Times (shudder I know). Bay Area Appeal does a pretty good job at breaking stories. The Chronicle is a lifestyle paper and website which is quite adept at reprinting corporate press releases and boosting the prospects of restaurants and start-ups.

      • thucy

        “The Chronicle is a lifestyle paper and website which is quite adept at reprinting corporate press releases and boosting the prospects of restaurants and start-ups.”

        So true it hurts. I thought the response of one of the other guests was pretty outrageous – “the monetary amounts are so small in this case!” Please. Not an excuse for refusing to so much as look into matters for YEARS.
        I agree that the Times’ Bay Area section has filled in much of the gaping hole in reporting. The Times’ coverage of the rental/housing crisis has been consistent and strong.

  • Emily Jencks

    Seems like someone representing the Chinese community should be a part of this discussion, if for no other reason than to make it less like a feeding frenzy, and perhaps even to introduce a little compassion for those involved.

    • Robert Thomas

      It seems that there will soon be plenty of opportunities for this shortcoming to be set right.

  • I’m stunned that these morons in CA government actually declared Chow, an illegal criminal, a model citizen for how he went from bad to good. The FBI should investigate every morons in the CA senate and Diane Feinstein for corruption and abuse of power.

    Instead of deporting this illegal, they gave him an award. I can’t wait for the referendum to split CA into 6 parts.

  • Bill Recto

    http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/03/28/14/palace-afp-probing-california-senators-gunrunning-links

    Also
    Check this Out Senator LeLand Yee is accused of Terrorism in the
    Philippines. Its not just Gang Members in San Francisco and Bribery in
    Sacramento he is accused of. I’m not sure how the Philippine Courts will
    deal with All of Yee’s staff members and Lobbyists? But somehow the investigative Journalists in the Philippines and the Philippine Government is now involved in this situation. Sure Cap Public Radio somehow managed to team up with Al-Jazeera in the Calderon Scandal. Now this NPR News/Talk Station In Sacramento is now teaming up with with ABS-CBN News to show evidence of not just bribery also terrorism in another country.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor