Former California State Senator and top gun control advocate Leland Yee pleaded guilty Wednesday to public corruption. Still facing allegations of weapons trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, and drug distribution, Yee’s plea deal seems to indicate that he is ready to “rat out” an even wider group of Bay Area and Sacramento conspirators.
Yee and his three co-defendants that include political consultant Keith Jackson, 50, his son Brandon Jackson, 29, and former sports agent Marlon Sullivan, 30, avoided trial with a deal to plead guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California.
Yee and Keith Jackson pled guilty to conspiracy for offering political favors in exchange for contributions to Yee’s 2014 campaign for Secretary of State, and for helping pay off debt still owed from his unsuccessful 2010 run for San Francisco mayor. The felony charge carried a maximum prison term of 20 years and financial penalties, as well as possible restitution and forfeiture. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 21.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Badger said at Wednesday’s hearing that the U.S. government has not agreed to a specific sentencing recommendation for Yee. Most legal experts say the language indicates that Yee’s attorneys appear to have a deal to for a reduced sentence if Yee provides evidence and testimony against his political network.
To get a sense of the time Yee might have to serve on his first guilty plea, prosecutors acknowledged that they have agreed to not seek a sentence for Keith Jackson of more than 10 years and his defense team has agreed to not request anything less than six years. Prosecutors agreed to seek a prison sentences of four-to-eight-years for Jackson’s son and five-to-eight years for Sullivan.
Yee, who was named to the “Gun Violence Prevention Honor Roll” by the Brady Campaign gun control advocates, is facing other indictments detailed in a stunning 88-page criminal complaint. Yee is alleged to be involved in buying automatic weapons and shoulder-launched missiles from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front terrorists in the southern Philippines, and attempting to re-sell the weapons to an undercover FBI agent.
He is facing more charges for accepting bribes to advance medical marijuana legislation and land government contracts for a San Mateo software company.
U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag stated in a press release, “Mr. Yee must now live with the consequences of betraying the trust that was placed in him when he became a public servant.” He added, “It is particularly disappointing and troubling when our elected officials violate their obligation to fairly represent their constituents.”
Judge Breyer advised all parties Wednesday that he will consider the proposed sentence ranges as part of those plea deals, but would not bind on his decision. He also directed Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen to move ahead with the case involving money-laundering and racketeering charges against Yee and the notorious Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, Chinatown boss of San Francisco’s Chee Kung Tong gang.