The Strange Case of Senator Leland Yee: Tough on Guns
In a twist of fate and perhaps the most ironic story so far in 2014, a California state senator known for engineering some of the worst gun control bills in the country's history was busted last week for (wait for it) public corruption and gun trafficking charges. And these aren't just any gun charges-- he is being accused of brokering a deal between Islamic rebels for illegal military grade weapons and what he thought was a member of the mafia.
Leland Yee, Tough on Guns
Born Y Ynling in 1948 Taishan, China just before it fell to the Communists, Yee immigrated to the US when he was just three years old. His father was an Army veteran and worked hard to provide for Yu, renamed Leland Yee.
The young immigrant grew up, worked hard, and by 1975 had earned a Ph.D. in Child Psychology. Starting his career in politics with an election to the San Francisco School Board, Yee became the darling of local politics, winning election as a City Supervisor in 1996 and then a spot in the California State Assembly in 2002.
It was while in the Assembly, part of the state legislature, that Yee became a crusader against those evil guns that you hear so much about. He was the original author of the bill that became the unworkable Microstamping law in California, seen by many as a backdoor gun ban due to the questionable science behind it. He also supported bans on 'assault weapons,' pushed for the end of the 'Bullet Button" (which is the only way Californians can legally own an AR-15 style rifle) and even fought against violent video games.
He was so good at his job that the Brady Campaign (ever heard of the Brady Bill and the original 1994 Assault Weapons Ban-- they were the guys behind that), awarded Yee special recognition in 2006. This helped him secure his place in the State Senate that year and led to him trying (and failing) in a bid to become Mayor of San Francisco. This did not stop him from tossing his hat in the ring for Secretary of State for California.
(Yee hugging it out in better times with California State Sen. Kevin De Leon, famous for his stand on "Ghost Guns")
Overall, an American success story. The thing is, there seems to be another side of to the good Sen. Yee, at least according to the FBI and US Attorney. One that sounds more like a John Woo movie.
Senator Yee, the rest of the story
On March 24, 2014, a bombshell in the form of hundreds of charges against more than twenty defendants, resulting from a four-year undercover FBI sting operation, struck Southern California. Yee was arrested along with 25 others, including one Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a Chinatown gang leader known as a "Dragonhead" with ties to the Hong Kong mafia and various Triads (we aren't making this up!). Yee's dentist was even part of the scheme according to the FBI.
("Shrimpboy" Chow. In 2012, Sen. Diane Fienstein and others praised Chow, "for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working 'in the trenches' as a change agent" due to his public work in trying to keep kids out of gangs. )
According to a 137-page affidavit filed in Federal Court by the US Attorney's office, Yee had taken some $42,800 in a number of different payouts, some in cash, for various favors.
One set of these favors included working out a deal for up to $2.5 million worth of fully automatic weapons, shoulder-fired rockets, and other items that were on a clearance sale from Philippine rebels. These rebels, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF--what a horrible acronym), have ties to groups like Abu Sayyaf that have ties to Al Qaeda and have been fighting the government (our allies) for more than four decades. Since 2001, US military advisors have been deployed in the fight against MILF, Abu Sayyaf, and others, losing 17 American lives in the process.
In 2012, in response to the NRA's suggestion that more good guys with guns could help stop bad guys with guns, Yee had this to say,
"Now, rather than face reality and be part of the solution to the widespread proliferation of assault weapons in America, they attempt to pass the buck. More guns are not the answer to protecting our children, as evident by the fact that armed guards weren't enough to stop the tragedy at Columbine High School. The NRA's response is pathetic and completely unacceptable."
However, according to the FBI, Yee told them the following about helping smuggle weapons to what he thought was the mafia (Pg. 94-95 of the affidavit),
"People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don't care. People need certain things."
(This video from a Taiwanese news network gives a good basic rundown of the allegations in about two minutes)
Since the disclosure of his alleged second-life, Yee has withdrawn from politics, had his Senate seat suspended, and halted his race for Secretary of State. Currently free on $500,000 bond from the US Federal Court that arraigned him, he is keeping a low profile until the trail starts and, for once in the past 30 years, is not making any public statements. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 8.
California state politicians from the Governor on down are distancing themselves from Yee and making statements calling the allegations and revelations, "a tragedy for the senate, for politics, in general our democratic process."
Pro-gun groups are calling Yee out for his apparent hypocrisy.
"If these allegations are true," said CCRKBA Chairman Alan Gottlieb, "Sen. Yee is easily the biggest hypocrite on gun control to walk the halls of the capitol in Sacramento, if not the entire United States...It is hard to fathom this kind of activity on a scale as massive as these court documents allege," Gottlieb said. "If Sen. Yee and his fellow defendants are convicted, they're going to wind up in one of the biggest gun-free zones in the country, a federal prison."
Yee, meanwhile, has upgraded his legal team in recent days and is preparing for a fight.
Since the guns never changed hands, you can bet that is going to be a big catch in the case.
The corruption allegations and $42,000 in 'donations' however, may be another story.
We'll keep you informed.