SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge in San Francisco today declined to delay the Nov. 2 racketeering trial of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow and said that if prosecutors add a new murder charge with a potential death penalty, he will require a separate, later trial on that charge.
Federal prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Tuesday that they expect a revised grand jury indictment as soon as today accusing Chow of soliciting the 2006 murder of Allen Leung, Chow's
predecessor as the leader of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in Chinatown.
The prosecutors had asked Breyer to delay next month's trial while senior U.S. Justice Department officials decide whether to seek the death penalty for the expected new charge.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Frentzen said that decision could take two to three months and that the outcome would affect jury selection, since a charge carrying a potential death penalty would require the selection of jurors willing to vote for capital punishment.
Breyer made his ruling after defense attorney Curtis Briggs reiterated that Chow is "absolutely not" willing to delay his trial.
"This is like a chess match. My client's getting further and further away from trial," Briggs said.
Chow, 55, an admitted former gang member who has previous racketeering and firearms convictions, has been in custody since his arrest in March 2014.
The defense team also told Breyer in a filing that lead defense attorney Tony Serra, now completing a murder trial in Yolo County, has delayed 25 other cases to accommodate the November trial date.
Breyer said, "The defendant's right to a speedy trial and counsel of his choosing would be severely impacted by a continuance of this case."
The judge spoke in his Federal Building courtroom via speakerphone from Washington, D.C., where he is currently visiting.
He said federal rules give him the authority to sever, or separate, the expected new charge in the interests of justice.
Outside of court, Frentzen declined to comment on whether prosecutors will go ahead with seeking a revised indictment today.
Frentzen told Breyer today the new charge would concern the alleged solicitation of the murder of Leung, who was shot in his import-export shop in San Francisco.
On Tuesday, the prosecutor said the revised indictment would also claim Chow solicited the murder of a former associate, Jim Tat Kong, in Mendocino County in 2013, but Frentzen did not mention that slaying today.
Briggs said outside of court he believes that documents filed under seal by prosecutors have exonerated Chow in the Kong case.
He said Chow is "absolutely innocent" of all charges and said, "The evidence is so far from my client it shows how ridiculous the prosecution theory is."
Chow is currently charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and conspiracy to receive and transport stolen goods.
He was one of 29 people indicted last year in a wide-ranging indictment that included both organized-crime charges against most defendants and political corruption charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.