About 2 years ago, I featured a legal saga involving a California state senator from the Bay area who was a leading advocate for gun control.

His alleged crime reeked of irony: Gun trafficking.

In exchange for campaign contributions, according to the affidavit, Yee would “facilitate a meeting with the arms dealer” so that the donor could buy a large number of weapons. The firearms would be imported through a port in Newark, N.J. At one meeting, the affidavit said, Yee and the prospective donor discussed “details of the specific types of weapons.”

The deals were facilitated by a Chinese gangland figure nicknamed “Shrimp Boy.”

The wheels of justice have been slow to grind, but grind they did. Leland Yee was charged and convicted of soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for providing political favors and conspiring to import weapons and ammunition into the country.

He has just received a 5-year sentence, after throwing himself on the mercy of the court.

…Wednesday, after decades as an elected officeholder, he was sentenced to five years in prison for doing political favors in exchange for campaign cash — or, as the judge put it — for selling his vote.

During an hourlong hearing, Yee implored U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to be lenient. Standing at a lectern near his lawyers, Yee said he had taken responsibility for his crimes and knew that he had shamed himself and hurt his family, his supporters and others.

“That will always weigh on me,” he said, “and that will always haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Yee also told the court that his wife was severely ill and needed him to care for her.

The judge was not moved.

Senior District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco imposed the sentence after the 67-year-old Yee pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to engage in racketeering.

“I don’t feel I should be lenient,” Breyer said during the hearing. “The crimes that you committed have resulted in essentially an attack on democratic institutions. We all deal with the situation that we in our work must be accepted by the public as having done an honest job.”

At least we have a sense of the scale of politician who is not too big to jail. Arguably, Yee’s biggest crime was not being in the right political office for his ambitions.


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