Arrested Sen. Yee will plead not guilty, attorney says

The attorney defending embattled state Sen. Leland Yee didn't come right out and say it, but suggested on Monday that his client may argue he was entrapped by federal investigators into an alleged deal to swap help on smuggling guns for campaign cash.

"A very good question is, what took three years?" asked attorney Paul Demeester in remarks to reporters outside federal court in San Francisco. "That raises a question of fairness to Leland Yee."

Yee, D-San Francisco, made a brief appearance for a court hearing largely focused on attaching property he owns to the conditions for his bail. He is expected back in court on April 8.

"Not guilty pleas will be entered," said Deemester.

The veteran legislator was arrested Wednesday in what was easily the most shocking of a trio of scandals that have rocked the state Capitol in recent months. Yee, 65, faces federal corruption charges in connection with a long FBI investigation into an alleged organized crime syndicate in San Francisco's Chinatown.

The charges were especially surprising in that federal authorities allege Yee, a longtime champion of gun control, offered to help connect an undercover FBI agent with an international arms smuggler in exchange for contributions to his campaign for Secretary of State. Yee dropped his bid for the office last week after being arrested. His fellow state senators voted overwhelmingly on Friday to suspend the Democrat -- the third senator sent home in recent weeks.

Yee's attorney told reporters he was leaving open the idea that the legislator had been coerced by federal investigators into agreeing to the deal.

"This investigation had been going on since 2011," said Demeester, who said he wonders whether federal authorities kept looking for "a case they could make" against Yee.

"The agents started pushing this idea of the arms dealing," he told reporters.


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