California state senator Leeland Yee is the latest anti-video games official to be met with a potentially career-ending controversy. This follows right on the heels of anti-games Utah lawyer Jack Thompson’s disbarment from legal practices.
In 2005, Yee championed the violent video game bill AB-1179, which his office authored. The law, had it been passed, would have banned the sale of “violent video games” to minors in California, essentially involving the government in the distribution of artistic products.
The law first failed to pass at the circuit court level, but was pushed through by former (then current) California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The proposed law finally made it to the Supreme Court in the case Brown v. The Entertainment Merchants Association. There, it was struck down yet again as unconstitutional in a seven to two majority vote.
SF Weekly reported on Wednesday that Yee has been brought up on charges of bribery and corruption. The FBI conducted a raid of the San Francisco Chinatown district, and local news station KCRA reported that agents removed “computers and other documents” from Yee’s office.
SF Weekly has since added that Yee appeared in court alongside 19 other defendants. Charges brought up at the court appearance include gun trafficking, racketeering and murder for hire. Yee was also specifically charged with wire fraud.
The state senator was released on a $500,000 unsecured bond and faces 16 years in prison.
Some of the other defendants in the case include political consultant Keith Jackson and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. SF Weekly describes Chow as “a longtime Chinatown gangster.”
Jackson and Yee worked together on multiple political campaigns where they successfully solicited campaign donations higher than the $500 limit — from undercover FBI agents. At least one such agent cut a $5,000 check for Yee’s unsuccessful San Francisco mayoral campaign.
The pair continued to solicit money to pay off campaign debts (around $70,000) from the same undercover agents who posed as businesspeople. Yee offered “certain official acts” as favors in exchange for the donations (hence the corruption charges). One such favor was putting the “businesspeople” in contact with an arms dealer to move weapons through Newark, N.J. (hence the gun trafficking charges).
The corruption charges may have been what led the FBI to Yee, but it’s the gun charges against Yee that are of particular interest. That’s because in addition to campaigning against video games, the senator also cracked down on guns in the state during his term.
When Yee lost to the SCOTUS on the video game case, he said that they “put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children,” saying the games industry continued profiting “at the expense of our kids’ mental health and the safety of our community.”
Yee’s campaigns against violent video games in the Brown v. EMA case also lost the state just under $2 million. That was spread out over its own legal fees and a nearly $1 million payout to the Entertainment Software Association in compensation. Between that and these latest charges, Yee’s political position is starting to look awfully shaky.