Federal prosecutors argued against making some of the video surveillance videos of a raid on state Sen. Leland Yee’s “dumpster” in January public, saying they belonged to the SFPD because Yee is a city lawmaker who received grant money from the city, according to court documents. The documents were filed in U.S. District Court on Friday. Yee, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery and wire fraud charges, has been
seeking to make the videos public. Yee, who did not immediately return a request for comment, previously said that the tapes capture events that implicate lobbyists and politicians and help prove that he was not involved in illegal activities. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Linnea Duffy told Judge Charles Breyer during a hearing Thursday that the record supports a case that covers an official raid, not one involving
criminal activity. The material, she said, is “taken out of context” because he is a state senator, and she said the court should make the tapes public. As the ruling continues to be argued, federal agents are supposed to drop everything other than their investigation and make the tapes public. “There is no compelling need for secrecy,” Breyer said during Thursday’s hearing. Yee’s lawyers said in court papers that
the judge should act quickly, and eventually make the tapes public. “The cases that record the seizure of Yee’s dumpster video files provide compelling evidence that the tapes’ disclosure should occur without delay,” his lawyers wrote. The court filings also stated that on 29 January, federal agents descended on the SF City Clerk’s office, which the SFPD uses to access information about public officials and grant
money. The following day, according to court documents, Yee sat at his desk and filed a claim against the city. When a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency employee picked up the paperwork, surveillance tape was rolled over and posted to a computer screen, according to court documents. The footage was quickly seized by federal agents, who confirmed that no money was ever given to Yee, according to court
documents. Yee’s lawyers say, however, that the FBI footage shows the San Francisco senator engaged in “lawful activity.” “The sad fact remains, and should never be forgotten, that Senator Yee paid for his own car, didn’t put his name on it, got (potentially illegal) gifts, had financial pressure on him, got bad legal advice, may have lied to a law enforcement officer, but all these actions occurred not in the course
of tax evasion but in the course of his official duties as a state senator,” Yee’s lawyers wrote. The documents said federal agents seized the SFPD cameras after they left the SFMTA in the belief that city officials did not know the FBI was involved in the raid. Yee’s lawyers said FBI documents they later obtained showed that SFPD officials knew a warrant was issued to search the SFMTA computers and found out that
Yee’s office was a likely target. “By analogy, why is it fair to keep unreleased evidence (in one case) while the State Patrol and the City Clerk’s office are revealed to be suspects in a separate investigation (in another)?” lawyers wrote. Yee’s lawyers also asked the court to throw out the motion that Giani filed, asking that the tapes be kept under seal.