Leland Yee, the Gun-Hating Calif. Pol. Accused of Helping Smuggle Guns, Agrees to Plea Deal

A bizarre scandal, even by political standards.


"Get Hard II: Get Harder"
Credit: Tim Bartel

It was the craziest political scandal to hit California in a while. In March 2014, State Sen. Leland Yee, in the midst of a campaign for secretary of state, was arrested in part of a massive raid in the FBI area, accused of political corruption and helping arrange illegal firearm deals on behalf of violent group in the Philippines.

That scandal was crazy enough, but adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Yee, a Democrat, was also an open supporter of tougher gun control laws and was a proponent of legislation in California to ban the sales of violent video games to children, a law that the Supreme Court subsequently struck down as unconstitutional. Yee was a critic of games like Grand Theft Auto, even though he apparently behaved in real life like one of its characters. He took political hypocrisy to brand new heights.

Today it all ends with a plea deal. He has agreed to plead guilty of one count of racketeering in federal court and faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. From the Los Angeles Times:

Yee was indicted in March 2014 on charges of accepting $62,000 in campaign contributions in return for legislative favors and offering to arrange the sale of machine guns and shoulder-fired missiles to an undercover FBI agent posing as a mob figure.

Racketeering charges were added later, alleging that he attempted to extort campaign contributions from an NFL team owner and supporters of mixed martial arts.

Yee originally pleaded not guilty and remained in office on paid suspension until his term expired at the end of 2014. The three co-defendants, including Yee polticial consultant Keith Jackson, also had pleaded not guilty.

While the "sexiness" of the arms-related crime and Yee's hypocrisy got the most attention back in 2014, I previously wrote that a lot of the corruption Yee is charged with appeared pretty much to be political business as usual.