Why Was Undercover FBI Agent Pulled From Investigation That Brought Down Leland Yee?

A federal judge is due to hear arguments in San Francisco on Sept. 24 on a former school board president’s bid for information about an undercover FBI agent who was allegedly withdrawn from investigating his criminal case because of financial misconduct.

Lawyers for Keith Jackson, 49, of San Francisco, argued in a brief filed Thursday that the requested evidence is “pertinent to understanding why Mr. Jackson was initially targeted, then pursued for more than three years” in a corruption probe.

Defense attorney James Brosnahan wrote that information about the agent could be relevant to “potential defenses of entrapment and government misconduct” and a possible motion to exclude wiretap evidence against Jackson.

The motion for evidence about the undercover agent and about other undercover agents as well will heard by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, the trial judge in the case.

“The defense is entitled to investigate whether any other agents, sources, or informants compromised the investigation by engaging in misconduct,” Brosnahan wrote.

Jackson, a political consultant who presided over the city’s school board in 1997, faces 22 federal criminal charges including racketeering conspiracy, soliciting political bribes, cocaine conspiracy, gun dealing and a murder-for-hire plot.

He is one of 29 people, also including suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, named in a 228-count revised corruption and organized-crime indictment issued by a federal grand jury on July 25.

Jackson is the only defendant charged in both of the two racketeering conspiracy counts in the indictment. One of those counts accuses him and Yee of conducting a racketeering enterprise to solicit campaign contributions in exchange for political favors and plan an international arms deal.

The other racketeering count charges Jackson, Chow and 15 others with engaging in an ongoing criminal enterprise that allegedly included drug trafficking, gun sales and a never-completed murder for hire.

The agent in question, known as UCE (or undercover employee) 4773, was one of at least seven undercover FBI agents who worked On the four-year investigation.

According to court papers, he posed as an Atlanta businessman who had real estate interests and who also represented a technology company that wanted Yee’s support in gaining a state contract.

The agent was introduced to Jackson in 2011 by the chief undercover agent in the case, UCE 4599, who posed as a Mafia member and began infiltrating the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association led by Chow in 2010, according to prosecution filings.

The defense brief says that UCE 4773 paid Jackson $37,000 in political consulting fees between February 2012 and May 2013 for help in pursuing commercial real estate ventures.

According to the indictment, the agent allegedly additionally gave Yee $20,000 in campaign contributions through Jackson in 2012, in part in exchange for Yee’s support of the fictional technology firm seeking a state contract.

Jackson’s lawyers wrote that they recently learned that an FBI agent disclosed in a wiretap application in November 2012 that the FBI was conducting an internal investigation “related to the financing and financial record-keeping of the undercover program under which UCE 4773 was operating.”

In another wiretap application to the court in February 2013, the agent said UCE 4773 had been withdrawn from the case because of the pending investigation, according to Jackson’s attorneys.

The defense attorneys said they do not know the exact nature of the financial misconduct, but argued they are entitled to find out because it could undermine the agent’s credibility and allegedly “may be just the tip of an iceberg of other evidence that reveals further misconduct by the FBI.”

They have asked Breyer to order prosecutors to give them the agent’s identity, his personnel file, records of the FBI’s probe of his alleged financial misconduct, and the identity and any criminal records of all other undercover agents who communicated with Jackson.

“Although Mr. Jackson had no criminal record, these agents resorted to extraordinary efforts to ensnare Mr. Jackson into their fabricated plots and operations, including by paying Mr. Jackson thousands of dollars for lawful consultation and advice,” Brosnahan alleged in the brief filed on Thursday.

Lili ArauzHaase, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, said she could not comment on the defense request.

The contributions allegedly given to Yee by UCE 4773 were to be used to help retire his campaign debt for his unsuccessful run for San Francisco mayor in 2011 so that he could run for secretary of state in 2014, according to the indictment.

Yee dropped out of the secretary of state race on March 27, a day after he was arrested by the FBI on a criminal complaint. Jackson and most of the other defendants were also arrested on March 26.

Yee is free on $500,000 bail and Jackson is free on $250,000 bail while they await their not-yet-scheduled trial. Nine defendants, including Chow, are being held in custody without bail.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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