SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A lawyer for a California state senator charged last week with accepting bribes and gun trafficking on Monday challenged the three-year FBI investigation that led to the arrest.
“There’s a question of whether the government felt it didn’t have enough evidence on the campaign investigation, so it starts pushing on the arms trafficking,” DeMeester said.
The U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco didn’t immediately respond to a phone call and email message seeking reaction to DeMeester’s claims.
Yee hasn’t entered a plea yet to one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and to six counts of engaging in a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.
He is accused of accepting bribes from undercover operatives needing political help in Sacramento and of agreeing to connect an undercover FBI agent posing as an underworld figure with an international arms dealer. DeMeester previously said the senator plans to plead not guilty.
Yee appeared briefly in court to discuss details of his release before trial. His next court date is April 8. He has been suspended from the Legislature.
Yee is currently free on a $500,000 unsecured bond. Prosecutors want property the senator owns to be used as collateral to guarantee he appears at all court hearings.
Federal prosecutors said they were close to accepting some property the senator owns but were still in negotiations with Yee and his lawyers.
Moments before Yee’s appearance, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, who authorities say is a Chinatown crime syndicate boss, was brought into court wearing ankle restraints and dressed in a mustard-yellow jail jumpsuit.
Chow was also arrested last week as part of the elaborate FBI sting operation targeting organized crime in the Chinatown area of San Francisco. A total of 26 people have been charged in the case.
Federal public defender Elizabeth Falk told the judge her office had a conflict from previous cases and she was still searching for a lawyer to represent Chow at government cost.