Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 4, 2014
Feds seek to return Leland Yee consultant to jail


Less than a day after he walked out of jail, the federal government moved Friday to revoke the bail of Keith Jackson, calling the former consultant to state Sen. Leland Yee a flight risk and a danger to the community.

Jackson and Yee, D-San Francisco, were among 29 people indicted Friday on charges of corruption and conspiracy to traffic weapons. Jackson also is accused of trying to arrange a murder-for-hire and other crimes.

Yee has been out on bail since his March 26 arrest. A judge ordered Jackson's release Thursday after Jackson arranged $250,000 bail secured in part by a mobile home in Texas.

In Friday's filing, prosecutors contend they had no time to challenge Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins' release order because they were presenting to the grand jury for much of Thursday afternoon. Jackson poses major risks and his bail is inadequate, they argued.

"While it is true that defendant has no criminal history, this case is very different than the normal one where a defendant is caught committing a single isolated crime and, if he has no criminal history, may be presumed to have messed up once," federal prosecutors wrote in Friday's filing. "Here, as the complaint and Indictment establish, there is probable cause that Defendant engaged in a wide variety of serious, frequent criminal behavior spanning the course of many years. While he has not previously been arrested or convicted, there is unquestionably probable cause to believe that defendant is not a one-time offender but a one man crime wave."

Jackson's legal team had no comment on the federal filing, a spokeswoman said Friday.

Yee, Jackson and other defendants are scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday. The judge could act then on the government's motion.

PHOTO: In this file photo taken March 16, 2011, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, second from right, poses with several inducted consultants, including Keith Jackson, left, a former San Francisco school board member.. The Associated Press/Sing Tao Daily

April 4, 2014
Steinberg invites constituents to meet him in Land Park

It's not Torrey Pines.

But the outing to the Land Park golf course that Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg has scheduled for Sunday won't set you back $65,000 either.

That's how much donors were asked to give the California Democratic Party to send a party of four to the Pro Tem Cup this weekend at Torrey Pines, where politicians mingle with lobbyists at San Diego's glamorous seaside golf course.

Steinberg canceled the annual fundraiser earlier this week, saying the corruption charges against his fellow Democratic Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee have tainted the routine of raising money. A third Democrat, Sen. Rod Wright, has been found guilty of eight felonies for lying about where lived when he ran for office.

"It's no secret that the Senate has been hurt recently by the charges brought against three senators," Steinberg wrote in an invitation asking Sacramento constituents to join him -- for free -- at the Land Park golf course on Sunday to talk about state policy.

"But it's important -- despite the acts of a few individuals -- that you know I am here to serve, to do the hard unglamorous work of fixing tough public-policy problems and most importantly, to do it the right way."

The event is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. at Swanson's Grove in the William Land Golf Course, 1701 Sutterville Road, Sacramento.

PHOTO: A golfer plays at the William Land Park Golf Course in Sacramento in February 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

April 4, 2014
Slippery stuff: California bill would enshrine state amphibian


A motto, a flag...and a frog?

California has established an array of official state symbols, from its widely recognizable ursine flag to some state foods enshrined by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Now Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, is hopping on the state emblem game with a bill to name the red-legged frog California's state amphibian.

The crimson-limbed critter would join the redwood, the desert tortoise and the golden trout as a recognized organic expression of California's uniqueness. The rana draytonii is currently categorized as a threatened species.

In a nod to a beloved Sacramento tradition, Pérez's bill notes that the frog achieved fame via the Mark Twain story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," a tale that leads lawmakers to get their hands dirty at an annual frog jump event.

But at its heart, Pérez said, the bill is an educational endeavor. He drafted it after elementary school students in his district, encouraged to find a connection to state politics, researched the frog's California history. Two students and their teacher will be flown up to Sacramento to testify for the bill when it comes before the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on Tuesday.

"We just thought it was a great way for students to engage," Pérez said.

PHOTO:In this photo taken Monday, April 28, 2010, a red-legged frog sits in a marsh area of Mori Point Park in Pacifica. Associated Press/San Francisco Chronicle/ Michael Macor.

April 4, 2014
Ron Calderon takes corruption defense to Twitter


Suspended state Sen. Ron Calderon took to Twitter Thursday night, sharing, for the first time, a possible defense against the corruption and money-laundering charges he faces in federal court.

"Opinion by former prominent DOJ prosecutor," Calderon tweeted as he shared a legal journal article that spells out one lawyer's view of the weaknesses in the government's case against the senator. It was a rare tweet by the Montebello Democrat, who hasn't posted anything to Twitter since his Feb. 21 indictment and typically focused on ribbon cuttings and other community events before that.

Calderon repeatedly told an undercover agent posing as a film studio owner offering him bribes that he could not perform a "quid pro quo," says the Daily Journal article by Edward J. Loya Jr., an associate with the Venable law firm in Los Angeles.

"Moreover, Ron Calderon's statements suggest that he was genuinely motivated by the prospect of helping minority filmmakers and small business owners, like (the agent), who could benefit from the proposed film tax credit legislation."

Loya also wrote that Michael Drobot, a former hospital executive who is a cooperating witness for the government, may not be credible to jurors. Drobot owned a surgery center that specialized in back surgeries for people being treated through the workers' compensation system. Authorities accuse him of being part of the biggest insurance fraud scheme in California history for taking advantage of a loophole in state law that allowed hospitals to double-bill insurance carriers for surgeries involving spinal hardware. Drobot agreed to plead guilty to bribing Calderon to help him perpetuate the scheme. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, while Calderon faces almost 400.

"Drobot may come off to some jurors as a person who is trying to save his own hide by falsely implicating Calderon," Loya wrote.

He also wrote that the early leaking of the FBI's affidavit to Al Jazeera America is "another troubling aspect of the case" that could undermine the credibility of federal agents.

"Certain aspects of the government's undercover investigation... may seem troubling to jurors," Loya wrote.

Loya, who spent five years prosecuting corruption cases for the US Attorney's Office, said in a phone interview that he is not working for Calderon or his lawyer, Mark Geragos.

"When I learned about the indictment in February, I thought it was a very interesting case.
I noticed that a lot of the coverage was very one-sided," Loya said.

He said he was surprised to see Thursday that Calderon had shared his article on Twitter.

"I think he has some very good defenses. He has a very good lawyer," he said. "He should trust his lawyer's ability to defend him."

PHOTO: The Twitter page of suspended state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, on April 4, 2014.

April 4, 2014
California Sen. Leland Yee indicted


Marking the next step in a sweeping FBI operation that has implicated suspended Sen. Leland Yee, a federal grand jury has indicted Yee and 28 others.

The indictment charges Yee with honest services conspiracy, wire fraud and conspiracy to deal in and import firearms. If convicted on all counts, Yee faces a sentence of 125 years in federal prison and $1.75 million in potential fines.

Also indicted were Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco School Board member and Yee fundraiser who surfaces throughout an FBI affidavit (wire fraud, engaging in business of dealing in firearms narcotics conspiracy, murder for hire, conspiracy to deal in and import firearms) and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a former convict who had publicly touted having reformed and re-invented himself (money laundering conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes, conspiracy to transport and receive stolen property in interstate commerce).

In a press release accompanying the indictment, the office of U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag hints at the scope of the investigation that ensnared Yee and a cavalcade of alleged gangsters. The release references a five-year effort jointly undertaken by the FBI, the Internal Revenue and the police departments of San Francisco, Oakland and Antioch.

The indictment includes three people who were not among the 26 complainants in last week's affidavit.

Those are Barry Blackwell House, known as "Barry Black," who faces weapons counts, including being a felon in possession of a firearm; and Zhanghao Wu and Tong Zao Zhang, who face charges of trafficking in stolen cigarettes.

PHOTO: In this March 2011 photo, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, center, poses with state Sen. Leland Yee, right, and then-state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, left, at the Chee Kung Tong spring banquet in San Francisco. Associated Press/Sing Tao Daily.

April 4, 2014
AM Alert: Traumatized California kids get a hearing


When she unveiled a slate of anti-truancy measures last month, California Attorney General Kamala Harris acknowledged the bills were more about data collection than about directly addressing the out-of-the-classroom factors that keep kids from attending class.

A Select Committee On Delinquency Prevention And Youth Development today could help shed some light on the latter issue. The hearing, presided over by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, will detail the effect that abuse and neglect have on kids and discuss how to treat traumatized students.

Expected speakers include Dr. Robert Ross of the California Endowment and Dr. Steve Wirtz of the California Department of Mental Health, in addition to numerous high school students. Starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Los Angeles Public Library.

VIDEO: We just got a glimpse of the post-supermajority reality for Senate Democrats, Dan Walters says.

ECONOMICS: An array of elected officials will be in Oakland today for an economic summit sponsored by the left-leaning Greenlining Institute, among them the California Energy Commission's David Hochschild, the California Public Utilities Commission's Catherine Sandoval and Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who is winning something called the "Big Brain Award." Keynoting is Richard Cordray, head of the beloved-by-liberals-and-reviled-by-conservatives Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

CARBONATION: The pursuit of reduced emissions continues. On Wednesday it was a low-carbon fuel summit; yesterday it was geothermal energy; and today it's a pair of Air Resources Board workshops on new standards for California's fuel as the state tries to diminish emissions ahead of a 2020 deadline. At the Cal/EPA building.

PHOTO: A Del Paso Heights student reads the book "Street Life: Poverty, Gangs and a Ph.D, " by Victor Rios, a sociology professor at UC Santa Barbara and former Oakland gang member as he talked to Vista Nueva High School students on Wed., Feb. 26, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

April 4, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Diminished Dems change course


Now that they need Republican votes on some measures, Dan says, Senate Democrats have agreed to accommodate their conservative counterparts.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.


Capitol Alert Staff

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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