The racketeering and murder solicitation trial of Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was postponed in federal court in San Francisco today until Nov. 9.
The delay moves the trial one week past its previous start date of Nov. 2 for opening statements and the beginning of testimony.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered the postponement because Chow’s lead lawyer, veteran criminal defense attorney Tony Serra, is still in an unrelated murder trial in Yolo County Superior Court and will not be available for jury selection in Chow’s case this week.
Jury selection Chow’s trial will now take place on Nov. 2 and 3. The trial is expected to last about two months.
Chow, 55, is the dragonhead or leader of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in Chinatown. He is charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to solicit the murder of a former associate in 2013, conspiring to transport and receive stolen goods and dozens of counts of money laundering.
Chow is also charged with an additional count of murder in aid of racketeering for allegedly causing the gunfire slaying in 2006 of Allen Leung, Chow’s predecessor as Chee Kung Tong leader.
But that charge, which could carry a potential death penalty upon conviction, may be tried in a later trial and not in the November proceeding.
Breyer said last week he will order a separate, later trial on the murder charge if U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch decides that prosecutors should seek a death penalty. He said today the murder charge will be included in the upcoming trial only if Lynch decides not to seek a death penalty and makes that decision before Nov. 2.
A possible death penalty would affect jury selection because it would be necessary to choose jurors willing to vote for capital punishment.
Also today, Breyer declined to reconsider a previous ruling in which he said prosecutors could keep secret the identities of undercover FBI agents who investigated the case. The judge said he might change his mind during the trial, depending how the evidence unfolds.
Chow was one of 29 people indicted last year in a wide-ranging indictment that included both organized-crime charges against most defendants and political corruption charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.
Yee and 10 other defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges. Two of those defendants are former associates of Chow’s who are expected to testify against him on the murder-related charges, according to a recent prosecution filing.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News