A federal jury in San Francisco completed its first day of deliberations Tuesday in the racketeering and murder trial of Chinatown fraternal association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.
Jurors began deliberating at about 2 p.m. after hearing one and one-half days of closing arguments in which prosecutors called Chow a “ruthless, opportunistic, ego-driven thug” and a defense lawyer painted him as a “charismatic leader” who had renounced crime.
The panel recessed for the day after two hours of deliberation and will resume Wednesday morning. The trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer began on Nov. 9.
Chow, 56, became the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong association several months after the previous dragonhead, Allen Leung, was murdered by a masked gunman at his Chinatown business office in February 2006.
Chow is accused of racketeering conspiracy for allegedly running a faction of the tong as a criminal enterprise.
He is also charged with murder in aid of racketeering for allegedly ordering Leung’s death, conspiring to murder another rival, five counts of conspiring to receive or sell stolen cigarettes and liquor across state lines, and 154 counts of money laundering allegedly carried out between 2011 and 2013.
Chow, who testified in his own defense last month, claims that in 2003, after being released from a federal racketeering and gun trafficking sentence, he took a vow following three days of meditation at Ocean Beach to give up a life of crime.
Prosecutors allege that although Chow sought to appear distant from crimes committed by his subordinates, he “called the shots” in their alleged stolen-goods trafficking and money laundering and took payments from them and from an undercover FBI agent who posed as a Mafia member.
Prosecutor William Frentzen told the jury during his rebuttal argument:
“Mr. Chow corrupted the Chee Kung Tong, he brought in a bad element to the Chee Kung Tong, he was controlling or at least approving of the activities and he was profiting from it.”
Defense attorney Tony Serra during his closing attacked the credibility of associates who testified against Chow and of the undercover agent, whom he called a “Judas liar.” The case was “filled with frustration and desperation on the part of law enforcement because my client did not participate in any crime.”
Serra told the jury Tuesday:
“He told them that week after week and it was true.”
The prosecution claims the undercover agent gave Chow 26 or 27 cash payments totaling $61,500 over three years in compensation for introductions to associates who would collaborate with the supposed Mafia member on crimes.
Chow testified that he tried to refuse the money and believed the payments were gestures of love and respect.
Serra urged the jury, in evaluating Chow’s testimony, to:
“… sincerely and profoundly consider that he told you the utmost truth.”