The verdict came in this morning in the case of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, after a nine-week trial that captured local headlines for months prior to its start, and the jury has found him guilty on all counts, 162 in total. They were apparently thoroughly convinced by the prosecution's case, built upon a five-year undercover FBI investigation that it seemed, at least at times, Chow might have been aware was happening an investigation that also ensnared former state senator Leland Yee and former SF school board president Keith Jackson and threatened to snag everyone from Mayor Ed Lee to Joe Montana in its wide net as well.
What began as a trial for racketeering and the various typical activities of organized crime drugs, sale of stolen goods, money laundering ballooned into a story about potential corruption at the highest levels of government, as influenced by an underworld within the largest and oldest Chinatown in the nation. When it appeared that such bigger charges might not stick (though who knows what the total fallout may still be), the government added murder charges to Chow's case in October, relating to two deaths in the last decade of rival Chinatown tong leaders.
Chow now stands convicted of ordering those killings and being the leader of the hundred-year-old Ghee Kung Tong, which prosecutors say he had plotted to take over early in the last decade after serving a prison sentence that began in 1993 for older racketeering charges.
In the course of the trial we got what could be the last high-profile stage for the flamboyance of local defense attorney J. Tony Serra, 81, who once upon a time inspired a film via the successful defense he mounted for another accused Chinatown criminal in the 1970's the anti-government Serra being an endearing character enough to warrant some favorable ink for Chow's case in the New York Times Magazine last fall.
The government's key witness was an undercover agent known only as Dave Jordan, who over five years posed as an East Coast mafioso looking to get into some shady trading in SF's Chinatown. He engaged in various deals to buy and sell stolen goods, all the while surveilling Chow and his operatives and paying kickbacks to Chow out of "love and respect," in exchange for his blessings in the deals.
Serra argued throughout, and Chow testified to the fact that he had remained on the straight and narrow since getting out of prison in 2002, and that all the government's wiretap evidence was flimsy and/or misunderstood. While he admitted to occasionally taking payments from Jordan, he said he did so often while drunk, and said that he had no knowledge of his friends may have been doing that was illegal.
The jury, clearly, didn't think it was so flimsy, and after just two days of deliberations came back with an unequivocal verdict.
All previous Shrimp Boy coverage on SFist.