FBI Affidavit In Leland Yee Case Makes Pretty Good Movie Pitch
Thestrange case of Leland Yee, the Democratic California state Senator charged with bribery and corruption and general terribleness Wednesday, lends itself to media analogies. The Escapist decided Yee was a character from Grand Theft Auto, which works nicely with his previous attempt to ban the sale of violent videogames to minors. San Francisco Magazine thinks he's more like Clay Davis from The Wire. And all we can think is that he's like some kind of Coen Brothers character -- and what he really needs is for Marge Gunderson to give him a good talking-to and let him know just what an idiot he's been, all for some money. There's more to life than money, doesn't he know that?
We'll confess we haven't read every single word of the 137-page FBI affidavit [PDF link] in the case, but it's pretty wild stuff. Let's look at some highlights! Please add your casting, screenwriter, and director suggestions in the comments.
Now, for bigtime True Crime buffs, you should know that the bulk of the affidavit covers a broader gang investigation, so it's mostly backstory, unless we're talking about a multi-season story arc, which would frankly be great TV -- a high-quality cable series about Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, the head of the Ghee Kung Tong crime organization, based in San Francisco's Chinatown. Here's the plot synopsis. Also, just remind yourself to mentally add "allegedly" to most of the verbs from here on in -- you'll know which ones.
Chow is the focus of the investigation by Undercover Employee 4599 (UCE 4599), who poses as a representative of La Cosa Nostra and gains Chow's trust; in 2010, Chow introduces 4599 to Keith Jackson, a political consultant and fundraiser for Senator Yee. Jackson starts pumping 4599 for campaign contributions for Yee's losing campaign for mayor, and after the election, Yee starts doing favors for cash, lobbying and arranging meetings with other politicians and such. Our favorite: For a $6800 donation, Yee arranged to pass a state proclamation honoring the 165th anniversary of the Ghee Kung Tong, which is after all just a social organization, like any other Legitimate Businessmen's Club. We bet it said really nice things about how they'd helped the community.
The really juicy stuff, though, comes in late 2013 and early this year, when Jackson and Yee met with 4599 and told him they could arrange for him to meet an international arms dealer and run some guns from the Philippines, because apparently this is just what well-connected state senators can do if they're really motivated to get campaign cash. Jackson called Yee "Uncle Leland," which seems awfully friendly, and eventually 4599 and Yee worked out an arrangement for weapons to be smuggled through the port of Newark, New Jersey. Yee told the agent that he could get him all sorts of marvelous toys, like fully-automatic assault rifles, and, sure, why not, shoulder-fired missiles and rockets, too. The agent said he could pay up to $2.5 million for the weapons. Yee reportedly bragged, "Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money. Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods." (And here, all we can think of is those scenes in The Sopranos where the mobsters are watching mob movies to compare tips on the realism of the flicks -- and to confirm for themselves that they're legitimate mobsters. There's a real pop culture/true crime feedback loop.)
Other FBI agents got in on the act as well, including one who posed as the owner of a medical marijuana business in Arizona and paid Yee $21,000 to arrange a meeting with another state senator who could help influence marijuana laws in California. The affidavit details how, when he met with Yee and Jackson to make the arrangements for the later meeting, the agent placed an envelope with $11,000 on the table:
"As Yee and Jackson got up to leave, Yee made a gesture to Jackson toward the envelope of cash, but Jackson did not see the gesture. Senator Yee then walked over Jackson, tapped him on the back, again gestured to the enveloped, and said, 'take that." Jackson picked up the envelope."
You want a moment of pathos? How about the scene where Yee admits to 4599 that he'd like nothing better than to just drop out of all this politics nonsense and go hide out in the Philippines, telling the fake mafia dude, "There is a part of me that wants to be just like you...Just be a free agent out there." We can totally see that clip as part of the trailer.
Yee even had his very own Rob Blagojevich moment, telling an undercover agent that to get medical marijuana legislation moving, it was "pay-to-play," and explaining that the process could be made to move a little faster:
"Just give me the goddamn money, man, shit... You should just tell them, write some fucking checks, man."
This thing has "Best Picture" written all over it.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.