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Calif. state Sen. Leland Yee pleads not guilty to corruption, arms trafficking charges

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

California state Sen. Leland Yee pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal court in San Francisco to charges of fraud and arms trafficking, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Yee, 65, was indicted in a criminal complaint filed March 24 by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and arrested March 26. He is charged with six counts of fraud for allegedly taking bribes, and one count of conspiracy to commit firearms trafficking for allegedly attempting to set up a meeting between a weapons dealer and an FBI agent. If convicted on all counts, Yee faces up to 125 years in prison.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and other politicians have called for Yee to resign from the state Senate. He has been suspended with pay along with two other state senators who are also dealing with criminal complaints, Rod Wright and Ron Calderon, and CalNewsroom reports that all three lawmakers had their official websites erased over the weekend. (The site for California Senate District 8, which Yee represents, is here.)

Yee pleaded not guilty along with two alleged co-conspirators. Wilson Lim, a Bay Area dentist, is charged with being involved in Yee's alleged arms trafficking conspiracy, and Keith Jackson, a political consultant, is said to have served as the middleman between Yee and his alleged criminal activity. The individuals were arrested after a three-year investigation by the FBI as part of a larger conspiracy tied to the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization and Raymond "Shrimpboy" Chow, its leader or "dragonhead." Chow, who faces four different charges in the case, has yet to enter a plea.

During his time as a state senator, and prior to that, a member of the California State Assembly, Yee secured a number of honors for his gun-control advocacy. Yee also made a name for himself as a crusader against violence in video games. He sponsored a 2005 California bill that criminalized the sale of violent video games to minors; the Supreme Court struck down the bill as unconstitutional in the 2011 case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

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