Federal prosecutors say they need more time to prepare for a new indictment in the Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow racketeering case because the case is expected to include a death penalty eligible charge that could come down any day this week, according to a new filing.
But the move is being called “blackmail” by Chow’s main attorney who added that it’s an attempt to force his client to push off the start of the trial.
Federal prosecutors claim they need an emergency continuance since they don’t have the authority to file the Violent Crime in Aid of Racketeering charge they expect to be included in the second superseding indictment. According to the filing, prosecutors must go through the Justice Department’s Capital Review process, which would take a couple of months.
“There are two ways to proceed,” said the government’s filing Wednesday. “First, the Court could grant a reasonable continuance to allow the Attorney General’s review process to proceed prior to bringing charges so that a decision would be made as to the appropriateness of proceeding with this particular case as death penalty eligible or not.”
The filing continued: “If that continuance is not granted, then the government will be forced to present charges that are death eligible and will then immediately move the Court for a continuance to allow time for the Attorney General’s decision after the charges are brought.”
The filing does not make clear how such a charge can be filed if it has not already passed through the required process.
When U.S. Attorney William Frentzen appeared in Judge Charles Breyer’s federal court Tuesday, he said the government would like a continuance in light of the impending indictment with the new charges of soliciting murder related to the two killings.
But Chow and his lawyers waived their right to a continuance, which meant the trial is set to start Nov. 2.
Wednesday’s filing, says Chow attorney Curtis Briggs, is the government’s attempt to force his client into delaying the trial. That delay, he says, will only help the government build a case he claims is weak.
The new charges, according to government filings, allege that Chow ordered the killings of Chinatown businessman Allen Leung, who was slain in 2006, and another former associate Jim Tat Kong, who died violently in Mendocino County in 2013.
Until this week, the case against Chow only alleged he headed an organized crime group, the fraternal Chinatown organization Gee Kung Tong.
Those charges stemmed from a year-long federal investigation into the Chinatown underworld and political corruption in San Francisco.
In March 2014, law enforcement raids across the Bay Area detained more than 20 people, including former state Sen. Leland Yee, former school board member Keith Jackson and Chow.
The arrests stemmed from a federal indictment alleging, among other things, that Chow headed an organized gang outfit in Chinatown and that Yee and Jackson committed a series of crimes to further Yee’s political ambitions. Yee and Jackson have since pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.
Chow’s arrest and the subsequent case have also pulled in a bevy of Bay Area politicians, including Mayor Ed Lee, who were caught up in the Federal Bureau of Investigator’s inquiry into local political corruption.