SAN FRANCISCO — State Sen Leland Yee and one of his alleged co-conspirators in a complicated corruption and illegal firearms case pleaded not guilty today on federal charges that could send the San Francisco Democrat to jail for up to 125 years.
Keith Jackson, a former Yee consultant and one of 29 defendants in the case, also pleaded not guilty at a joint arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero.
Another major subject in the federal probe, Raymond "Shrimpboy" Chow, was allowed to postpone his plea after his new attorney, Tony Serra, asked for more time.
In an interview outside court, Serra said he will "put the government on trial" and mount a defense that raises issues of official racism and entrapment.
"Law enforcement is supposed to investigate crime and criminal activity. In this case, they created crime and criminal activity," Serra said.
Prosecutors assert that Jackson introduced Yee to several undercover agents posing as people seeking political favors in exchange for donations to Yee's campaigns for San Francisco mayor in 2011 and secretary of state in 2014.
Agents posing as a medical marijuana businessman, a technology vendor and a man seeking a proclamation honoring a Chinatown group offered Yee bribes for his help, the government alleges. Jackson played a key role in the bribery scheme, they say, as the middleman who connected Yee to those seeking favors. Jackson also introduced Yee to an undercover agent posing as someone seeking to buy millions of dollars worth of guns, according to a 137-page federal complaint that says the pair sat down with him to discuss an arms deal.
Federal authorities also accuse Jackson of selling several guns to undercover agents and conspiring with his son, Brandon Jackson, to sell cocaine and other drugs.
— Herbert A. Sample
Editor's note: This post was updated at 10:55 a.m. April 8 to include comments from Tony Serra.
PHOTO: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, leaves Federal Court in San Francisco on March 26, 2014. Bay Area News Group/Karl Mondon