A Federal district judge sentenced former state Sen. Leland Yee, a San Francisco Democrat, to five years in prison Wednesday for trading political favors for campaign contributions. He was also fined $20,000.
Yee admitted in a plea deal that he was part of a racketeering conspiracy that involved exchanging official acts for money, conspiring to traffic in weapons and money laundering. Specifically, Lee promised an undercover FBI agent favors in return for campaign contributions.
During the hourlong proceedings, Yee asked the court for leniency in light of his public humiliation, his wife’s severe illness, his admissions of wrongdoing and his past record of public service.
Yee told the judge that his crimes had hurt his family, his supporters, government institutions and the public.
“That will always weigh on me, and that will always haunt me for the rest of my life,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he did not feel he should be lenient.
“The crimes that you committed have resulted in essentially an attack on democratic institutions,” the judge told Yee, who was standing at a lecturn with his lawyer. Breyer said Yee made it clear that his Senate vote was for sale.
“That in the court’s view is very serious violation of trust,” Breyer said. “Votes are not for sale. Positions are not for sale. And your conduct … indicating that it was for sale was a violation of trust.”
Yee looked grim after his sentencing and left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.
Government prosecutors had asked that Yee’s sentence include eight years in prison, a three-year term of supervised release, a fine of $25,000 and a $100 special assessment.
“Yee demonstrated he was a public servant who was willing to betray the trust of those who elected him by being prepared to sell his vote to the highest bidder,” prosecutors said in recommending the sentence.
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