U.S. judge declines to seal allegedly confidential documents filed by Raymond Chow


A federal judge in San Francisco Aug. 7 turned down a prosecution request to seal documents in which racketeering defendant Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow disclosed excerpts of FBI wiretap applications.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said it would be futile to seal the documents filed by Chow on Aug. 4 because they have now been made public online and elsewhere.

“These documents are available on the Internet and have been widely publicized. The court will not engage in a futile act,” Breyer wrote in a two-page order. But the judge said he “will address the propriety of defendant Chow’s having publicly filed” the documents at the conclusion of the racketeering and organized crime case.

Breyer also ordered that any future filings by any parties in the case that contain information from wiretap applications and orders “shall be filed under seal and may be disclosed only upon a finding of good cause by this court.”

Chow, 55, the leader of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in San Francisco’s Chinatown, is charged with racketeering conspiracy, trafficking in stolen liquor and contraband cigarettes and money laundering. He and seven co-defendants are due to go on trial in Breyer’s court on Oct. 19.

His lawyers filed the excerpts of wiretap applications by unidentified FBI agents to support Chow’s motion for dismissal of the charges on the ground that he was selectively prosecuted. Chow claims that federal agents and prosecutors unfairly targeted him while failing to pursue probes of public officials, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Sharmin Bock, whose names surfaced in wiretaps and recordings.

Lee, Bock and others named in Chow’s brief have denied engaging in any illegal actions. Chow asked for either dismissal of the charges or the right to seek further evidence on his claim of selective prosecution. Breyer is scheduled to hear arguments on the request on Aug. 27.

Federal prosecutors, in a motion for sealing submitted to Breyer late Aug. 4, contended Chow’s filing violated a protective order issued by Breyer last year and a federal law that requires a judge’s permission for release of information from wiretap applications.

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