Senator Prison Yard: Leland Yee Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

State Sen. Leland Yee, the former moral compass of the state Legislature who was snared in the same FBI probe that caught unreformed Chinatown mobster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption on Wednesday. 

Yee, 67, served over two decades in public office, as a San Francisco supervisor and later member of the state Legislature. He made a name for himself as a sort of public moralist — whose efforts to ban violent video games and enact strict gun control laws earned him national enemies across the aisle — but high-profile shoplifting and prostitution solicitation allegations told a different story.

And then the irony. Yee pleaded guilty to felony racketeering in July, after he allegedly told an undercover FBI agent that he could — no problem, man — secure that FBI agent guns. As in lots of guns. 

Yee was notorious for promising anyone and everyone he wanted to hear. (That “venal” nature may be why U.S. Justice Charles Breyer did not show Yee much leniency.) But he has at least one public defender: former Mayor Willie Brown, who thinks what Yee did isn't such a big deal. 

“He was a scam artist,” Brown wrote on Sunday, “but he never stole any public money.”

[jump] Yee was one of over two dozen people charged after the years-long FBI investigation into Shrimp Boy (who was himself found guilty of murder-for-hire). Also awaiting sentencing is former political consultant Keith Jackson, an ex-school board member whose efforts to illegally divvy up campaign contributions was caught on FBI wiretaps — the same wiretaps that caught Ed Lee fundraisers Zula Jones and Nazly Mohajer allegedly talking about campaign finance shenanigans for the mayor.

After that conversation was entered into the public record by Chow's defense attorneys in August, Jones and Mohajer were charged with bribery by District Attorney George Gascon. No other politicians have been charged with wrongdoing.

It's interesting to note that Jones gave credit for her involvement in San Francisco's “pay to play” political culture to none other than Willie Brown. And in his column, Brown essentially gloats that the FBI — who famously tried to dig up dirt on Brown but failed, for many years — snared a minnow who didn't know what he was doing. A “petty thief,” writes Brown, who all but uses FBI documents for toilet paper. 

As for Yee? His demise is being celebrated by some of his old enemies. 

The five-year federal prison sentence is also less than was served up to former Yee protege Ed Jew, the westside supervisor who was snared on bribery and mail fraud, after taking cash to set up a tapioca shop and lying about where he lived.

It was Jew who once said that he learned everything he knew from Yee.

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