The racketeering conspiracy and murder trial of Chinatown tong leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was recessed in federal court in San Francisco today because of illness of a defense lawyer.
The attorney, Curtis Briggs, began cross-examination on Monday afternoon of the primary undercover FBI agent in the case, who has been identified only by the pseudonym of Dave Jordan.
The cross-examination, expected to take about one more day, will resume when the trial recommences on Dec. 7. The court will not be in session next week because of other judicial commitments by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.
The agent posed as an East Coast Mafia member for nearly four years between 2011 and 2014 during the investigation of Chow and associates in the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association.
Chow, 55, became the leader or “dragonhead” of the tong in 2006 after his predecessor, Allen Leung, was murdered by a masked gunman.
He is charged in the trial with ordering Leung’s murder, conspiring in the murder of another rival in 2013, conspiring to run a racketeering enterprise, money laundering, and conspiring to receive and transport stolen liquor and cigarettes.
As part of the alleged racketeering conspiracy, prosecutors allege that Chow introduced the supposed Mafia member to associates who then carried out crimes such as money laundering and deals with purportedly stolen goods, which had in fact been supplied by the FBI.
During five days of direct testimony under questioning from a prosecutor, the agent testified that Chow accepted envelopes of cash payments of $500 to $7,000 about two dozen times between 2011 and 2014 in return for the introductions.
Defense attorneys maintain that Chow reformed after serving a previous sentence for racketeering and selling guns. They contend that recordings secretly made by the agent, on which Chow is heard saying “No, no, no,” don’t prove that Chow wanted the money, accepted it or knew what it was for.
During a brief court session outside the presence of the jury today, lead defense attorney Tony Serra reiterated a request made by Briggs to Breyer on Monday for disclosure of the agent’s identity.
The defense attorneys claim that because the agent told Briggs during cross-examination Monday that he is not currently working undercover, there is no need to protect his identity.
Breyer said Monday that he had previously granted prosecutors’ request for concealment because the agent might resume undercover work in the future, but said he will reconsider after receiving briefs.
In an Oct. 2 order approving the prosecution request, Breyer cited national security and classified information concerns, but did not give details. The prosecution’s request filing has been sealed.
Today, the judge ordered Chow’s lawyers to file their brief by Friday and prosecutors to respond by Dec. 1, so that he can make a decision before the trial resumes. Both briefs are to be sealed from the public, but the judge said under classified information rules, the prosecution can see the defense brief but not vice versa.
Serra asked Breyer to allow Chow’s attorneys to see the prosecution filing, saying the defense would otherwise be “blindsided.”
Thus far, the public and reporters have been barred from the courtroom during the testimony of the agent posing as Dave Jordan, as well as that of another agent who posed as a Chinese-American businessman. Members of the public and the media have been able to watch the trial in a separate room on a live video feed on which the witness is not visible.
Serra asked Breyer today to reopen the courtroom in addition to allowing the agent’s identity to be revealed.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News