A reformed gangster — or the vicious, brutal mastermind behind a violent criminal enterprise?
Those alternate perspectives of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow were presented by attorneys Monday during closing arguments in his federal trial.
The 56-year-old dragon head of the Ghee Kung Tong stands accused of ordering a rival’s death, conspiring to kill another man and racketeering.
The government’s closing argument before Judge Charles Breyer posited Chow was a canny gangster who was the shot caller for a wide-ranging criminal enterprise based in Chinatown.
But the prosecution claims the defendant had learned from past mistakes to distance himself from criminal acts and appear as a reformed do-gooder.
“The evidence is that Raymond Chow was a vicious gangster,” said prosecutor Susan Badger.
Defense attorneys meanwhile argued the government has had a vendetta against Chow since he was released from prison, saying there’s little evidence linking him to any of the criminal acts alleged.
“What you have here are fragments of evidence,” said defense lawyer Tony Serra. “What I would call shadows, shadows, echoes. Not hard evidence.”
Both positions have been presented in less direct ways in the roughly two month federal trial, which included everything from testimony from former Chow associates, undercover FBI agents and experts on Chinese fraternal organizations.
Much of the case against Chow rests on circumstantial evidence, which Breyer told the jury should be considered as evidence.
Additionally, to be found guilty of the conspiracy charge, noted Breyer, the defendant doesn’t need to know all aspects of the conspiracy or have been a part of it from the start.
Badger’s closing argument described the dichotomy between how Chow has presented himself and the evidence in the case.
The version of events the defense would like jurors to believe, said Badger, is that Chow is reformed and knew nothing of the crimes that went on around him.
“The problem with this version of events is that it doesn’t fit the facts,” she said.
Chow never left the world of crime, she said. Chow was pulling the strings and had learned from past mistakes to keep his hands clean, said Badger.
“Raymond Chow is a man who says one thing but means another,” said Badger. “He is not the victim here. He is not the world’s most misunderstood criminal. The real Raymond Chow is a ruthless, opportunistic ego-driven thug.”
Chow, said Badger, used his criminal skills to recreate a former gang, take over the Chinatown fraternal organization Ghee Kung Tong, order the death of a rival and conspire to kill another man in his effort to control Chinatown’s underworld.
Serra opened his closing arguments for the defense with an angry tirade against the prosecution’s lack of evidence and the weak characters of their witnesses.
“They have to show that he in some fashion participated,” said Serra. “That he introduced people for the purpose of their committing crimes. They’ve never done that.”
Specifically, Serra called into question the main witnesses in the case, saying they were turncoats and undercover FBI agents.
Serra said the witnesses who turned state’s evidence are morally bankrupt, sociopaths, and in some cases, homicidal people who cannot be trusted.
“They’re desperate, don’t you know” said Serra.
The other main witness, an undercover FBI agent who went by the name David Jordan, was mocked by Serra and called a “snake.“
Serra also said the agent was a “Judas” whose version of events must not be believed.
“He misstates many times what actually occurred. He exaggerates, he embellishes. Credibility is what I’m arguing,” said Serra.
Serra went on to explain such uncorroborated testimony is dangerous. “It leads to investigations that ultimately will be spy-type activity. Groups will be infiltrated like this one is. No group will be secure,” he said.
Judge Breyer took issue with that line of thought.
“You cannot pass judgment as to the propriety of the undercover agents tactics in this case, if they are indeed legal,” the judge said:
Serra, who at one point called the jury beautiful, saying it resembled the American flag, said his client had truly turned his life around and vowed to leave crime behind.
The closing arguments are set to continue 9 a.m. Tuesday.