Prosecutors: Chow filing violated gag order

Federal prosecutors have asked a U.S. judge in San Francisco to seal documents in which defense attorneys for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow claim prosecutors unfairly targeted him while avoiding a possible probe of city officials whose names surfaced in wiretaps.

Lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office contended in a filing Tuesday afternoon that Chow’s lawyers violated a protective order governing an organized-crime and corruption case in which Chow and 28 other people were indicted last year.

The federal attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to seal a brief and supporting documents filed by Chow’s lawyers Tuesday asking for dismissal of the charges against Chow.

Chow, 55, the leader of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in San Francisco’s Chinatown, argued in the brief that he was unfairly selectively prosecuted because federal authorities targeted him while failing to pursue an investigation of Mayor Ed Lee and other officials whose names arose in wiretaps.

The publicly filed brief was accompanied by supporting documents containing excerpts from wiretap applications by unidentified FBi agents. The wiretap applications were provided by prosecutors to defense attorneys during pretrial evidence gathering.

Chow alleged that Lee received $20,000 in campaign contributions from an undercover FBI agent posing a businessman. A spokesman for Lee’s reelection campaign has denied that Lee did anything improper or that the documents show any inappropriate actions by the mayor.

Prosecutors contend in their filing that Chow’s disclosure of the materials violates a protective order issued by Breyer last year.

Breyer today issued an order directing prosecutors to file additional papers explaining why they believe Chow’s documents violated either the protective order or a federal law that requires a judge’s permission for release of information from wiretap applications.

Curtis Briggs, a defense lawyer for Chow, said today he is “100 percent confident” the materials filed Tuesday did not violate the protective order.

Chow is charged with organized-crime racketeering conspiracy, trafficking in stolen liquor and contraband cigarettes, and money laundering.

He and seven other defendants are due to go on trial in Breyer’s court on Oct. 19.

In an unrelated part of the case, former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo and political consultant Keith Jackson pleaded guilty last month to a charge of conspiring to accept campaign contributions as bribes in return for political favors by Yee.

Breyer’s protective order forbids public disclosure of undercover agents’ identities and generally requires that prosecution evidence given to defendants must be kept confidential.

But it allows defendants to use the evidentiary materials in pretrial motions “using appropriate procedures to protect the safety and security of third parties when necessary.” The documents filed by Chow on Tuesday have been circulated on the Internet and could still be found there even if Breyer orders the materials sealed within the court docket.

At this point, prosecutors “can’t control the information, that’s for sure,” Briggs said.