The New York Times Magazine this week delves deep into a profile of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow which is also, in turn, a profile of his flamboyant, anti-government defense attorney J. Tony Serra older brother of sculptor Richard Serra who, as SFist noted when he was hired last year, was once portrayed by James Woods in True Believer, a 1989 film about a trial involving a gangland murder in San Francisco's Chinatown.
The piece is worth a read just for its rich details about Shrimp Boy's personality, history, and post-prison, pre-current-prosecution life he hosted a dinner party at his girlfriend's Potrero Hill condo of all "prison food," including the prison-made hooch known as pruno that's made from fermented fruit; she taught him how to compost; he's in love with her dogs (see above); and he's a big fan of Marvel comics.
Meanwhile, the portrait of Serra is equally good. He compares Shrimp Boy to "a holy man" and calls him "beautiful," and says his client it "soft and gentle and considerate and empathetic." This of course is not the portrait we've gotten of Chow, whom the government accuses of ordering multiple murders in addition to racketeering charges federal attorneys announced this week, in fact, that they intend to bring murder charges against Chow and will possibly be delaying his racketeering trial as a result, as the Examiner reports.
Serra, who does not have a bank account or a cell phone, has served two prison sentences of his own for tax evasion/avoidance, and he says things like, "law is class struggle," and "This is a government-created crime."
Serra says he plans to make sure the jury sees the good and reformed side of Chow, but that could be tough.
"He did not have to get his hands dirty committing crimes and could insulate himself — although he did it poorly in the end — from the crimes being committed around him,’’ the government wrote in a filing. ‘‘The jury should be permitted to understand that Chow’s techniques were taught to him by his prior dai los.’’ (Dai lo is the Cantonese term for big brother, or mob boss.) Still, Serra is confident. To win this case, and any case, he said, ‘‘You have to show you have the moral high ground — that you have transcended the conflict as defined by the prosecution.’’ He paused, then added: ‘‘I have the Buddha here.’’