Possible tie between threats against Rep. Giffords and Bay Area state Sen. Yee being investigated, says office

State Sen. Leland Yee photo courtesy of Yee’s ofice

In the spring of 2010, the office of state Sen. Leland Yee received multiple racially derogatory messages and a threat on the legislator’s life. Yet even in the wake of the Jan. 8 assassination attempt on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson), Yee affirmed to the Nichi Bei Weekly that he will continue to do what he has “always tried to do, speak my mind” about issues, since such threats “don’t deter me from doing what I think is right.”

Law enforcement authorities, however, are concerned. Just days after the shooting in Tuscon, Ariz. that left six people dead and 13 injured, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in Arizona contacted Yee’s office about the threats he had received in March and April of last year.

Adam J. Keigwin, Yee’s chief of staff, told the Nichi Bei Weekly that the Democratic senator’s office had received a call from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department regarding the messages that Yee had received last spring.

The messages, Keigwin said, followed Yee’s request to the California State University, Stanislaus Foundation to disclose the compensation package that had been promised to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for a speaking engagement at the university.

A death threat came via a fax that was filled with expletives and racially offensive comments against both Yee and President Barack Obama. Yee’s office also received racially derogatory messages via text and voicemail.

The text message. photo courtesy of Yee’s ofice

Keigwin said his office was contacted because Giffords’ office had received similar faxes.

Following the threats in March and April, Keigwin said that Yee’s office had contacted the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

Yee, who represents parts of San Mateo County and San Francisco, had also received threats in 2005 after introducing a bill that would prohibit the sale of extremely violent video games to children. A few years later,  Yee authored a bill that sought to prevent businesses from denying service to a customer because of the language they speak.

Keigwin did not think there was a connection between the three sets of threats. He also said that Yee hadn’t received any such threats since last spring. Keigwin said that Yee plans to reintroduce the language rights bill this year.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Yee said he was leaving the matter to authorities.

While advocating the need for “spirited discussion and debate,” Yee said we all must “learn to work together, to be agreeable while we may disagree.”

He emphasized the need to respect the “traditions of this country” and honor freedom of ideas.

Jason Ogan, a public information officer for the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, had not heard about anyone from the department having investigated or contacted Yee’s office.

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