Students surprised by arrest of Senator Leland Yee

Students+surprised+by+arrest+of+Senator+Leland+Yee

San Francisco Chronicle

628x471Students expressed shock and dismay at learning that Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) was arrested on corruption and gun trafficking charges on March 26. The dismissed senator’s arrest brought surprise to some Bear Creek students who protested a district social media policy back in August.

“We actually received backing from Senator Yee during the protest,” junior Hannah Jobrack said.  Jobrack was referring to comments Yee made to “The Record” on August 6, 2013.

In his comments to “The Record” Yee said, “While the problem of cyber-bullying must be addressed, we must do so in a focused manner. The policy of punishing students for saying anything deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ goes too far in restricting student speech. Policies regarding cyberbullying must be carefully and specifically written, and I encourage the Lodi Unified School District to take a more judicious approach.”

The district ultimately rescinded the contract.

“It certainly took us all by surprise,” Jobrack said, referring to the arrest charges.

The California State Senate has been experiencing a corruption and bribery crisis since the beginning of 2014, with the arrest of Senator Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood) for voter fraud and lying about his residence and Senator Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) for bribery and corruption charges.  On March 26, the Federal Bureau of Investigation searched the Sacramento and San Francisco offices of Yee and arrested the senator on six counts of depriving the public of honest services and one count of conspiracy to traffic guns without a license.  Yee was arrested alongside reputed San Francisco gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow and charges were brought upon 29 people in total.

Yee was a champion for student press rights, authoring AB1372, a bill that protects advisers from retaliation when they support their students’ rights to free speech. He also authored bills on gun control, and criminalization of violent video game sales to minors.”

Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000.

Yee began his political life as a member and president of the San Francisco Unified School District board. He joined the Board of Supervisors of the City of San Francisco in 1997, where he remained until 2002, when he was elected to the California State Assembly.  Yee has represented the 8th State Senate district, which encompasses the western part of San Francisco and a portion of San Mateo County, since 2006.

During his years in the state legislature, Yee was a champion for student press rights, authoring AB1372, a bill that protects advisers from retaliation when they support their students’ rights to free speech.  He also authored bills on gun control, and criminalization of violent video game sales to minors. In his 12 years in Sacramento, Yee authored 82 bills, which were signed into law.  For his views on gun control, Yee received death threats from a pro-gun rights activist in 2013.

Perhaps one of the more surprising aspects of the senator’s arrest is that as a strong supporter of gun control legislation, Yee was arrested on charges of trafficking firearms from an Islamist militant group in the southern Philippines through a port in New Jersey.

In a 137 page criminal complaint that totaled a combined 50 charges, filed by the United States District Court, Northern District of California on March 24, it is alleged that Yee met with arms dealers in San Francisco restaurants, and that he was afraid of being caught with “dirty money” in his campaign for the California Secretary of State in November.

On March 28, the leadership and members of the California State Senate voted to suspend Yee, Calderon and Wright.  Yee has pleaded not guilty to the charges and along with the other suspended senators, continues to collect his annual $90,526 salary while awaiting trial.