A request by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to limit defense lawyers’ ability to speak publicly about a corruption case that involves state Sen. Leland Yee has riled one of the dozens of defendants and his legal team.
Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow’s attorneys – Tony Serra and Curtis Briggs, among others – argue that these efforts are part of the government’s continued besmirching of their client’s name, which has already been dragged through the mud in media coverage following his March arrest.
In a protective order request filed Wednesday, the government said 24 of 25 defendants have agreed to limit the release of information in the prosecution’s discovery phase through a protective order, but Chow refuses to do so.
The protective order, signed by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, would prevent the release of information in the documents given over to defense attorneys, which would “place a defendant and his counsel under enforceable orders against unwarranted disclosure of the materials.”
They argue that evidence taken during the course of the investigation, which will be handed over as discovery in the case, could reveal the identities of the undercover agents on the case, endanger witnesses and possibly reveal ongoing investigations.
Redaction is not an option due to the immense amount of data, the motion said.
Chow’s lawyers disagree, arguing that in reality the request is a “gag order” that will only further limit their client’s attempts to defend himself.
“A national media frenzy erupted, countless articles were published, and the case was thrust into the nightly television news cycle,” notes Chow’s rebuttal. “The Government generated and fueled colossal public and media interest by connecting Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and State Senator Leland Yee together with scandalous allegations.”
Furthermore, the defense wrote: “As media coverage became less and less accurate and more sensationalized, the Government failed to rectify known falsities. Most of this occurred before Mr. Chow was able to obtain counsel to publicly address the misconceptions. Stemming from the Government’s press releases, the media has eroded Mr. Chow’s presumption of innocence and in all likelihood he has been already wrongfully convicted in the eyes of the public.”
Defense attorneys argue that the government should “bear the burden” of choosing the sensitive information instead of asking for a blackout.
Chow was among 26 defendants arrested in March raids, including Yee and San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson. The group faces charges ranging from murder for hire and drug trafficking to gun smuggling.
Yee posted bail soon after being arrested. Chow remains in custody.