All 29 defendants in the massive federal corruption case that netted several politicians including California State Senator Leland Yee, a reformed gangster named Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, and many others, appeared in Federal court on Thursday.
The early proceedings are already proving to be very complicated for the court, with so many defendants, lawyers, documents, and evidence collected over five years by the FBI. The judge overseeing the case is trying to set up a system to manage the potentially unwieldy trial.
Besides dealing with the 29 defendants and their army of lawyers, a 137 page indictment, and vast amounts of evidence from the five year investigation, the court has to decide how to handle the FBI's secretly recorded videotapes and wiretaps.
The question of the day is discovery and how the government will present all of that information to the lawyers involved in the case. Prosecutors have asked the judge to issue a protective order that would keep all the evidence confidential once it is shared with the defendants' lawyers. But not everyone representing the 29 defendants agrees on how evidence should be handled in the name of discovery.
Tony Serra, attorney Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, says the government just wants to protect its informants and undercover agents.
"If that is what they're really seeking to suppress, I'm on the opposite side," Serra said. "I've indicated I'm not going to sign anything."
Attorney Jim Brosnahan who represents former San Francisco School Board President Keith Jackson, says if a protective order enables him to get all the evidence quickly, he probably won't object.
"We want the discovery right away," Brosnahan said. "The government has filed a 137 page affidavit. We question each and every word in that affidavit and we want to get discovery and these lawyers and these defendants are entitled to that."
The judge seemed to agree with prosecutors that if there were no protective order, it would unfairly expose other public figures that were interviewed but never charged.
Lawyers will meet with prosecutors on Monday to try and iron out an agreement and the judge will issue a ruling after that meeting.
Leland Yee pled not guilty to seven charges – six related to corruption and one for his part in setting up an international gun smuggling deal.
Source: ABC News