The case of convicted Chinatown mob boss Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow dominated news headlines during his 2015 federal racketeering trial in San Francisco. And now a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied Chow's latest appeal.
Chow's attorneys argued that two undercover FBI agents should not have been allowed to testify behind closed doors without revealing their identities. They further argued in the appeal that the jury should not have been told about Chow's admission in an earlier case, in 2000, that he ordered multiple murders — something that was part of a plea agreement, and which prosecutors said they would not disclose so long as Chow testified truthfully.
As KPIX/CBS SF reports, prosecutors said Chow violated that agreement when he took the stand in the 2015 trial and falsely testified that he was not involved in any previous murders. In their decision, the Ninth Circuit writes, "We refuse to adopt an interpretation of Chow’s plea agreement that would allow him to testify falsely at his criminal trial without fear of impeachment."
Chow was convicted in January 2016 on 162 counts of racketeering, organized crime, and murder, and later sentenced to life in prison. Chow's trial came after a five-year federal investigation that involved multiple wiretaps, and which also ensnared local politicians including State Senator Leland Yee — Yee was also sentenced in 2016 to five years in prison after investigators found that he and his associate, former SF school board president Kieth Jackson, had accepted campaign contributions in exchange for political favors and a deal to import firearms.
Chow claimed that he was being wrongfully prosecuted, and that he was fully reformed after serving a previous jail sentence and getting released in 2002.
The nine-week trial nearly four years ago fascinated a city that perhaps didn't know that a sophisticated organized crime underworld still operated in the nation's oldest Chinatown. Chow was named as the leader of the 100-year-old Ghee Kung Tong, and was implicated in ordering the killings of rival tong leaders, in addition to trafficking in stolen alcohol and cigarettes. One of those rivals, former Ghee Kung Tong leader Allen Leung, was shot and killed by masked gunmen in 2006, six months before Chow was named the new "dragonhead" of the organization. The gunmen in that case have never been identified, and one witness testified to having heard Chow order the killing.
In the trial, Chow was represented by flamboyant defense attorney Tony Serra, the same Tony Serra who's currently representing Ghost Ship operator Derick Almena. At one point, Serra had threatened to get late mayor Ed Lee on the witness stand, attempting to connect him to Chow's shady dealings, though that never occurred.
As the Chronicle reports, the Ninth Circuit judges, while denying Chow's appeal, did write that the judge in the original trial, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, should reconsider an order that forced Chow to forfeit $225,000 in property that he allegedly obtained as part of the racketeering conspiracy. The appeals judges pointed to recent Supreme Court precedent that might limit the amount of that forfeiture.