Disgraced former California State Senator Leland Yee set free after five-year jail term

Leland Yee in 2011. (Photo: World Journal archive)

Leland Yee(余胤良), a former California state senator who was convicted on multiple federal charges, was released from a Sacramento halfway house last week after serving five years in jail.

According to the inmate information system of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Yee, 71, was released on June 26, 2020. He spent the final months of his jail term in a Sacramento Residential Reentry Management(RRM) facility.

The inmate information system of the Federal Bureau of Prisons shows Leland Yee was released on June 26. (Photo: Federal Bureau of Prisons)

The World Journal reached out to the Sacramento RRM on June 30, and the facility staff confirmed that, via phone call, Yee was transported from Big Spring, Texas to that Sacramento RRM in February, and released on June 26.

The World Journal also reached out to several San Francisco Chinese community members, but no one was aware of Yee’s release.

“I want to wish Leland and his family a happy reunion,” said Doug Chan, a member of the Civil Service Commission in San Francisco who has known Yee for four decades.

Chan recalled that in the 1980s, few Chinese Americans were in politics, and he was deeply involved in helping Yee’s campaign for local public offices. Yee’s election and political career went well for decades until 2014 when he was arrested and removed from the State Senate.

Chan also emphasized the falling of Yee was like “lost an entire generation of political leadership” because the Chinese American community has put together “M.V.P.”, the money, votes, and people, to produce a promising leader in politics.

Yee was born in Guangdong, China and emigrated to the U.S. in early age. His political career started in 1988 by consecutively winning the election of the Board of Education, Board of Supervisors, and State Assembly and State Senate.

In 2006, Yee defeated his opponent by a landslide of votes, became the first Chinese American to swear in on the State Senate floor, making history for Chinese Americans in California’s politics. In 2011, Yee ran for San Francisco mayor but lost to Ed Lee.

In 2014, after years of the undercover investigation, the federal agency arrested dozens in San Francisco who are connected to the Chinatown organized crime activities and involved in the indictments of trafficking arms, money laundering, racketeering, and bribery. Yee, a candidate running for Secretary of State in that year, was among the arrests. He then withdrew his candidacy, as his public image in the city and the community collapsing.

In 2016, Yee pleaded guilty of one count of conspiracy in racketeering and was convicted in several other charges, sentenced for a five-year jail term.

Another high profile Chinatown street gang “dragonhead”, the “Shrimp Boy”, Raymond Chow Kwok Cheung(周國祥), is serving his life sentence in a federal prison in Indiana, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The “Shrimp Boy”, Chow Kwok Cheung, was sentenced to life. (Photo: Federal Bureau of Prisons)

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The Chinese language version of this story appeared on the World Journal on July 1, 2020.

Bilingual journalist. San Francisco-based.