SACRAMENTO -- State Senate leader
"We're going to demand that Leland Yee -- yes, innocent until proven guilty -- leave the Senate and leave it now," Steinberg said at a news conference in his office, where he was flanked by 14 fellow Democratic senators.
If Yee does not resign, Steinberg said, the Senate is prepared to suspend him during its next floor session Friday.
Federal prosecutors have accused Yee of conspiring to commit wire fraud and weapons trafficking, according to a recently unsealed indictment.
Steinberg called the charges "shocking and surreal," adding that the gun-running allegation was "like a bad movie."
"Yes, they're allegations but they're appalling," Steinberg said. "And the nature of those allegations creates a huge cloud over the institution, obviously, and he cannot come back. If he's acquitted, he can come back."
The senators sought to distance themselves from Yee, who is the third Democratic senator to have been charged or convicted of wrongdoing in the last several months.
"We're offended because we're here every day to do an honest day's work," said state Sen.
"Every indictment, every arrest, every arraignment, even every suspicion or allegation, reflects very poorly on each of us and all of us," Leno said.
Other Democrats were quick to defend Steinberg's leadership.
"There's nothing that Darrell does that enables or creates the conditions for this type of behavior in this great institution," said Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), who is poised to be the next Senate leader.
Also calling for Yee's resignation Wednesday was Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who said Yee should step down to "allow this black storm to be removed from over the Capitol and over the State of California."