Trio of political operatives to be arraigned today

Three political operatives charged with bribery and money laundering are set to enter pleas today in San Francisco Superior Court, where a judge is also expected to determine whether a protective order will be granted in the case.

In January, District Attorney George Gascon filed the charges against the three operatives for allegedly soliciting bribes to help pay off Mayor Ed Lee’s campaign debt. They include former San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education President Keith Jackson, retired Human Rights Commission employee Zula Jones and ex-Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer.

Last week Jackson was sentenced, along with former state Sen. Leland Yee, to nine years in federal prison for racketeering, among other crimes.

The charges announced last month arose from court filings in the same federal case, which was focused on convicted Chinatown gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. Those filings allegedly show the trio arranging bribes in the form of campaign donations meant to help retire Lee’s 2011 campaign debt.

The filings included transcripts of FBI wire taps that caught the defendants plotting to circumvent campaign finance laws by laundering large sums of campaign contributions from an undercover FBI agent. The agent, playing an investor looking for business in San Francisco, was allegedly promised favorable treatment in the future in exchange for the money.

Prosecutors are also seeking a protective order in the case today, arguing that if the evidence — all sealed in federal court — is made public they could risk the safety of undercover FBI agents and possibly besmirch the names of people caught up in the investigation but not charged with any crimes.

The prosecution even filed a declaration Feb. 16 from FBI agent Ethan Quinn, an agent involved in the investigation into Chow and others, who argues the documents should stay under seal.

But defense attorneys, including Public Defender Jeff Adachi, say the request should not be granted.

In a Feb. 8 filing, defense lawyers say the claim is baseless and any protective order in a federal court has no role in separate cases in state court.

“The state chose to bring these charges, and it needs to come forward with the evidence to support the charges,” noted the filing. “To put it bluntly, this is the state’s problem, not the defendants’. The state needs to either figure out a way to provide the defendants with information and discovery to which they are entitled, or dismiss the case.”

The hearing will take place at the Hall of Justice in Department 11 at 9 a.m.

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