Legal Expert: Leland Yee Corruption Scandal Case Far From Open and Shut | NBC Southern California

Legal Expert: Leland Yee Corruption Scandal Case Far From Open and Shut

Leland Yee is accused in a corruption scandal, exposed after a five-year FBI sting.



    State Sen. Leland Yee is in the middle of a corruption scandal, and he's scheduled to appear in federal court Monday. Although the evidence appears overwhelming, experts say it is far from an open and shut case. NBC Bay Area’s Monte Francis reports from outside Yee’s home in San Francisco with the story. (Published Monday, March 31, 2014)

    California state Sen. Leland Yee is facing a series of charges, including conspiracy to traffic firearms, and although the evidence against him appears overwhelming, legal experts said it is far from an open and shut case.

    Most of the charges have to do with public corruption, and legal experts said those charges can be hard to prove. Although Yee’s political career may well be over, the legal case against him is another matter, according to Legal Analyst Dean Johnson.

    Johnson said it is not illegal for a person to give money to a politician’s campaign, expecting to influence that politician. It is also not illegal for a politician to take into account the wishes of contributors when making decisions.

    But the illegal part is if there is a quid pro-quo or a tit -or-tat, a blatant exchange of money for political favors. Johnson said proving that can be tricky.

    "Legally, this case is wide open," Johnson said. "These are kinds of cases that defense attorneys love because so much is open to interpretation, and everything turns on what was going on in Sen. Yee’s head. What was his intent?"

    Johnson said the strength of the prosecutors case will also depend on how much video and audio evidence there is, and he said he assumes there is such evidence.

    Johnson also said Yee’s attorney will likely argue the FBI entrapped Yee by setting up such an elaborate sting, with made up scenarios and crimes that, in the end, never took place.

    Yee is expected to appear in federal court tomorrow to tell the judge who will be handling his defense.

    A  grand jury indictment against Yee is expected by the end of the week.