What's sure to be the colorful trial of Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow kicked off Monday with opening arguments, and already there is talk of mafia-style hits and steak dinners with an FBI agent posing as a mob figure. And Chow's defense attorney, longtime San Francisco character Tony Serra, made a predictable spectacle of himself on day one, speaking in a press conference with his long white hair flowing and looking a little like a 'crazy attorney' you'd grab from Central Casting. He insists, as you can hear him in the ABC 7 video below, that Chow will be taking the stand "because he's innocent!" and "He's not going to hide anything."
Also, Serra insists he'll try to get Mayor Ed Lee on the witness stand, because the government has tried to connect Chow to substantial bribes offered to City Hall, though it does not appear that the feds have any evidence that the mayor or any of his associates accepted any of them. (Former State Senator Leland Yee, however, did accept some cash and pleaded guilty over the summer to racketeering charges.)
As discussed earlier, Chow is charged with racketeering, money laundering, extortion, and trafficking in drugs and counterfeit cigarettes in addition to ordering the murders of two men considered to be rivals. Federal prosecutors believe Chow ordered the February 2006 killing of his predecessor as "dragonhead" of Chinatown's Ghee Kung Tong, 56-year-old Allen Leung, who was shot to death by a masked gunman at his import-export business at 603 Jackson Street.
Prosecutors say they have a witness who will take the stand, Kam Wong, who was the driver in the slaying of Leung, who will testify that he drove two men to the Jackson Street location and then drove them to Oakland, at which point they disassembled their guns and tossed them off the Bay Bridge, as the Chron reports.
Chow is also accused of ordering the murder of Jim Tat Kong, who was found dead along with his wife in Mendocino County in October 2013. Kong was part of the rival tong, the Hop Sing Tong, and the deaths were ruled a double suicide at the time.
As part of his opening argument, per the Examiner, federal prosecutor Waqar Hasib painted Chow as a major figure of local organized crime. "Like planets revolving around the sun, this case is about the man who was at the center of that criminal underworld universe," Hasib said.
Serra says he will argue that Chow is a reformed man, and was as open with an undercover FBI agent who posed as an East Coast mafia figure named David Jordan because he had nothing to hide, and simply enjoyed the free steak dinners he "probably hadn’t eaten so well in years," says Serra, given that he'd been living on charity since his release from prison on racketeering charges in 2003. On one recording made by the FBI, Chow can be heard saying that if Jordan's a snitch, "he's a good snitch," and "If we... chase him away, it’s our loss, because we’ll have fewer steak dinners."
Serra will be pointing out that though the FBI spent over $1 million wining and dining their target, trying to entrap him into breaking the law, he never did.
As Chow colorfully put it in a recent New York Times Magazine piece, "It’s like they baked me this cake, this delicious cake, and tried to get me to eat it, even rubbed it in my face. But I didn’t eat it. I stuck to my diet."
Chow's trial continues today, so, obviously, there's more to come.