Defense attorneys say Shrimp Boy is innocent; slam feds

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Who is Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow? In the 137-page federal complaint detailing charges that led to the high-profile arrest of Sen. Leland Yee, Chow, and 24 others two weeks ago, Chow is described as the powerful "Dragonhead" of an ancient Chinese organized crime syndicate, “overseeing a vast criminal enterprise involved in drugs, guns, prostitution, protection rackets, moving stolen booze and cigarettes, and money laundering,” as we reported at the time.

Not so, famed defense attorney Tony Serra told a crowd of reporters at Pier 5 Law Offices in San Francisco’s North Beach district, where he and fellow attorneys were joined by supporters wearing red tees bearing the slogan “Free Shrimp Boy.”

Attorneys Serra and Curtis Briggs described a five-year federal operation to target Chow and ensnare him in wrongdoing, insisting he had wanted no part in criminal activity. Serra said agents had “stuffed money into his pocket” despite his protests, and noted that his legal team was representing Chow pro bono because he has no money.

Here are a few words from Serra, followed by Briggs.

Eli Crawford, a longtime friend of Chow’s who said he'd worked as an orderly at a Dublin prison when Chow was held in solitary confinement there years ago, described Chow as a spiritual person who had taken a vow to disengage from wrongdoing in the wake of his criminal past.

Chow was initially appointed a federal public defender, but the team of lawyers has stepped in to take over his defense. Serra said he believed they would enter pleas of not guilty on all counts on Tuesday, when a court hearing is scheduled before a federal magistrate. A court date tomorrow (Fri/11) will deal primarily with discovery, he said. In May, the defense attorneys plan to bring a motion for bail.

Asked about Chow’s link to Yee, Serra said he believed there was “no nexus, no relationship whatsoever.” Serra said he doubted if all defendants named in the complaint would proceed to trial, guessing that some would cooperate or take plea deals.

“If we are really going to trial with Yee,” Serra said, he’d have to think carefully about whether to move for a separate trial.

“Sometimes the strategy is, no, I want to be with him – mainly because, one, there’s no nexus, and two, he’s going to go down,” Serra said. “And that gives the jury, maybe a satisfied appetite, you know, for justice.”

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