California Democrats were speechless as they watched their prized Sacramento gun control Senator, Leland Yee, head to prison for weapons trafficking, accepting bribes, and extorting money.
“The crimes that you committed have resulted in essentially an attack on democratic institutions,” Breyer told Yee, who nodded as the judge addressed him. “This is a serious, serious injury to a governmental institution.”
Breyer called his involvement in that crime “hypocritical” and “unfathomable” given his past advocacy for gun control.
The judge gave him 30 days to surrender to the U.S. Marshal’s Service, which will turn him over to the federal prison system. Yee’s lawyer asked the judge to recommend the sentence be served at the federal prison in Taft in Kern County.
The 67-year-old Yee had risen steadily in the ranks of Bay Area politics since the late 80s. His career began when he was elected to the San Francisco School Board.
Prior to becoming a state senator, Yee was also a California State Assemblyman. Yee was Supervisor of San Francisco’s Sunset District and was a member and President of the San Francisco School Board. In 2004 Yee became the first Asian American to be appointed Speaker pro Tempore. He was the second highest ranking Democrat of the California State Assembly.
Yee was arrested by the FBI on March 26, 2014 on charges related to public corruption and gun trafficking. Specifically buying automatic firearms and shoulder-launched missiles from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. MILF is an Islamist extremist group located in the southern Philippines.
Yee attempted to re-sell those weapons to an undercover FBI agent. He went further to accept a $10,000 bribe from an undercover agent. This in exchange for placing a call to the California Department of Public Health regarding a contract at the organization.
Former California State Senator Leland Yee admitted this week that he accepted bribes and extorted money.
He acknowledged accepting $11,000 in exchange for setting up a meeting with another state senator, $10,000 for recommending someone for a grant, and $6,800 for providing a certificate on California state senate letterhead honoring the Ghee Kung Tong.
Overall, government officials identified more than $100,000 in bribes directed at Yee during the investigation.
He also acknowledged that he discussed helping an undercover FBI agent buy automatic weapons from the Philippines. They were intended to be brought to the US for distribution.
In a lengthy sentencing memo, prosecutors outlined what they saw as a pattern of bad behavior by Lee that went far beyond the charges he pleaded guilty to.
His dishonesty in the early stages of the investigation, they wrote, “demonstrate a venal attitude toward his position as an elected public official and a willingness to abuse his position of trust in any number of ways. They also reveal a disconnect between the face that Yee puts out to the public and his true nature and character. They necessarily cast a shadow over his career as a public servant and legislation he has sponsored.”
Federal prosecutors pushed for an eight-year sentence for Yee in his political corruption case, describing him in court papers as a public servant who “was willing to betray the trust of those who elected him” and “to sell his vote to the highest bidder.”
“Senator Yee abused that trust in the worst possible way,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Badger told the judge Wednesday, urging punishment above federal sentencing guidelines. “It was to retain power as a public official.”
The FBI snagged Yee in the course of a five-year probe into reputed Chinatown crime boss Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.
Chow was convicted of racketeering charges in December and after a lengthy trial is awaiting sentencing.
Yee was a vocal advocate for gun control, both before and while engaged in gun running.
In 2006 Yee was named to the Gun Violence Prevention Honor Roll by the Brady Campaign. It was for his efforts that included co-authoring a first-in-the-nation bill to require new semiautomatic handguns be equipped with ballistics identification technology known as micro-stamping.
In May 2012, together with Kevin de León, Yee proposed legislation to ban any semi-automatic rifle that used a bullet button that makes the rifle a “fixed magazine rifle.” SB 249 would ban conversion kits and rifles.
Yee is quoted as saying, “It is extremely important that individuals in the state of California do not own assault weapons. I mean that is just so crystal clear, there is no debate, no discussion.”