David Marks and Scott Detrow
Update 5:00 pm Friday:
Gov. Jerry Brown is calling on Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright to resign from office, saying it’s the best way to “restore public confidence.”
The state Senate voted Friday to suspend three Democratic members who are at the center of high-profile criminal cases. A resolution to suspend Sens. Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright, with pay, passed by a 28-1 vote.
The action comes two days after federal agents arrested Yee in connection with an investigation into corruption and firearms trafficking. Yee had refused a call from Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to step down. Calderon faces federal corruption charges, while Wright was convicted of voter fraud and perjury earlier this year.
The suspension prevents Calderon, Yee and Wright from exercising any power of office until the pending criminal cases against them have been resolved. Even so, they will continue receiving their $95,000 annual salaries.
Steinberg acknowledged the seriousness of the series of corruption charges against members. “One is an anomaly,” he said. “Two is a coincidence. Three?”
Steinberg said it would be satisfying to simply kick out members who are in legal trouble.
“But I reluctantly conclude that what would be satisfying and popular would also run afoul of the most basic American principles of due process, and the idea that people are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” Steinberg said.
The Senate president also announced the unprecedented step of canceling a floor session in April for a mandatory ethics review, with Senate officials going office by office to emphasize ethical conduct and ask staffers to come forward if they are aware of any potentially criminal activity by lawmakers.
The only senator to vote “no” on suspension was San Diego Republican Joel Anderson. He wants to see all three Democrats expelled.
“You propose to give them a Roman holiday by suspending all their ability to work for the people, but continue to pay them the people’s money?” Anderson asked. “You’re going down the wrong path. You’re wrong. You still believe that senators are above the law, and you’re wrong.”
In San Francisco, Yee’s lawyer released a brief statement on the Senate’s vote. “Suspension is the right step for now,” attorney Paul DeMeester said, “and is appropriate in a system that presumes the innocence of the accused.”
Also Friday, 18 of 25 defendants charged with Yee earlier this week appeared in federal court for detention hearings and assignment of attorneys. Those scheduled to appear included Keith Jackson, a former school board member and Yee political consultant accused of arms trafficking, participating in a murder-for-hire scheme and corruption. Also appearing today: Raymond Chow, the purported leader of a suspected Chinatown gang infiltrated by the FBI. Yee is scheduled to be back in court Monday.
This post contains reporting from the Associated Press.