Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco pleaded not guilty Thursday to a racketeering charge and two counts of conspiracy "to obtain property under the color of official right."
Yee entered the plea in federal court in San Francisco, responding to a new grand jury indictment released Friday that added allegations to the corruption case filed against Yee in March.
Meanwhile, Yee filed papers later Thursday indicating that, as of June 30, he has paid $28,400 to the law firm providing his attorney from his campaign account for secretary of state, which is flush with $362,638 after he dropped out of the race following his arrest. Yee’s account was boosted by a $430,790 refund from a media firm that was going to provide campaign advertisements before Yee dropped out.
He is accused of accepting $62,000 in campaign contributions in return for favors, including an offer to arrange the sale of machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles to an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob boss.
In all, 29 people, including former San Francisco school board President Keith Jackson, who was a Yee campaign consultant, and Chinatown figure Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow have been charged as a result of a sweeping FBI investigation.
Yee’s new plea addresses a charge that Yee violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, Act, which allows enhanced criminal penalties of 20 years in prison and civil fines in cases where offenses are committed as part of a criminal organization. Prosecutors allege Yee's criminal enterprise was his 2011 campaign for mayor of San Francisco and his campaign this year for California secretary of state, which he dropped after his arrest.
The new charges include allegations Yee sought to extort campaign contributions from people in exchange for favorable votes on legislation affecting the National Football League and mixed martial arts.
The senator’s attorney, James Lassart, could not be reached for comment. Yee, who has been released on $500,000 bail, has been suspended with pay by the state Senate pending the outcome of his criminal case. His term in office ends in November.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times