Sacramento, CA - A federal judge sentenced former California state senator Leland Yee on Wednesday to five years in prison after he acknowledged accepting thousands of dollars in bribes. Prosecutors had recommended an eight-year sentence, saying that would reflect the extent of Yee's crimes. Yee's attorneys had called for no more than five years and three months behind bars, saying Yee had a history of public service and his wife was ill.
"I take full responsibility for this. I accept my crimes, I am asking for lenience. I hope you look at my entire life and not just the crimes I committed," Yee said just before sentencing. District Court Judge Charles Breyer rejected his request. "The crimes you committed were an attack on our democratic institutions. Mr Yee, you abused that trust," he said. "These are very serious abuses. The most significant crime was that your vote was for sale."
Yee and his codefendants pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco last July. For his part, Yee, 66, acknowledged that he participated in two criminal enterprises, the Leland Yee for Mayor Campaign 2011 and the Leland Yee for Secretary of State campaign. In connection with these campaigns, Yee admitted he (1) accepted $10,000 in exchange for using his influence as a state senator to assist in the process of obtaining a grant from the California Department of Public Health, (2) conspired to extort money from individuals by suggesting he would cast favorable votes for specific legislation only if the money were paid, (3) accepted a $11,000 bribe in exchange for arranging a meeting with another state senator to discuss specific legislation, (4) conspired with others to purchase weapons in the Philippines and import them illegally into the United States, and (5) provided more than $6,000 in cash to a campaign aid knowing the aid would launder the money by arranging to convert the cash into checks made payable to Yee's Secretary of State campaign.
The federal indictments included accusations that Yee took bribes in exchange for voting for bills that favored his contributors. One bill involved regulations for medical marijuana, a second extended the life of the California State Athletic Commission, and a third prevents pro football players on non-California teams from filing workers' compensation claims for their injuries.
The indictment said an undercover agent told one of his associates, Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president who also worked as a consultant and fundraiser for Yee, that the owner of a National Football League team was prepared to contribute $60,000 to Yee if he would support the workers' compensation bill. Jackson accepted, after contacting Yee, who voted for the bill, the indictment said. It said the money was never paid.
The judge gave Yee 30 days to surrender to the U.S. Marshal's Service, which will turn him over to the federal prison system. James Lassart, Yee's lawyer, asked the judge to recommend the sentence be served at the federal prison in Taft in Kern County. Yee rushed out of the courthouse with his lawyer who said: "He's remorseful and he's tired of this humiliation to his family and he's tired of what I would call this circus." Read More...