Anti-violent video game crusader Leland Yee arrested for corruption, bribery

Chris Morris
Plugged In

California Senator Leland Yee, author of the 2005 anti-video game law that made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court and one of the most prominent figures in the California Democratic Party, has been arrested and indicted on a wide range of charges, including corruption and bribery.

It's a laundry list of alleged crimes that sounds like something straight out of Grand Theft Auto.

A federal grand jury accused Yee of offering political favors to campaign donors, engaging in a conspiracy to deal firearms without a license, and illegally import firearms.

Yee was arrested Wednesday as part of an FBI raid and is facing a possible 125 years in prison and fines of $1.75 million.

In a criminal complaint, U.S. attorneys accused Yee and another defendant, political consultant Keith Jackson, of raising campaign funds for Yee's Secretary of State campaign by "soliciting donations from FBI undercover agents, in exchange for multiple official acts." All totaled, 26 people were included in the FBI sweep.

Law enforcement officials say last March, Yee, in exchange for a $6,800 campaign, had a staff member present an official State Senate proclamation on his behalf at the 165th anniversary dinner of the Chee Kung Tong criminal enterprise.

He's also accused of attempting to broker an arms deal between an acquaintance of his and an undercover agent who was posing as a New Jersey 'businessman' with mob ties. That deal fell through, but Yee allegedly told agents he knew another arms dealer in the Philippines.

It's a hard fall for Yee, who was a leading candidate to become the state's Secretary of State. He was the first Chinese American to be elected to the state Senate and has a political career that has stretched nearly 30 years.

Party officials are calling for his resignation and say they will move to suspend him from the Senate if he does not do so.

Yee is best known, ironically, for his efforts in battling violent video games.

In 2005, his office authored a violent games bill that was signed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which prohibited the sale of violent video games to minors. When a circuit court ruled it unconstitutional, he urged the state to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately upheld the lower court's ruling, solidifying the industry's first amendment rights.

"As a result of their decision, Walmart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids’ mental health and the safety of our community," said Yee at the time.

The Justice Department alleges that earlier this year, when helping to broker an arms deal, Yee said “People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don’t care. People need certain things.”

Leland Yee, for instance, needs a good lawyer.

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