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California state Senator Leland Yee pleads not guilty to federal charges

SAN FRANCISCO--Suspended state Sen. Leland Yee on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to bribery and gun charges two weeks after he was arrested as part of an elaborate FBI sting involving undercover agents investigating political corruption and an alleged organized crime syndicate based in San Francisco's Chinatown.

Yee entered his pleas in federal court to one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and illegally import firearms; one count of conspiring to defraud citizens of honest services; and six counts of engaging in a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.

The San Francisco Democrat is accused of conspiring to connect an undercover FBI agent with a Philippine arms dealer in exchange for campaign contributions, and of trading political influence for cash.

Yee, who is free on US$500,000 bond, has been suspended from the Legislature. Also on Tuesday, Yee and his wife, Maxine, signed over their San Francisco home as collateral for the bond. The Yees and their attorney Jim Lassart declined to comment outside court.

His campaign consultant, Keith Jackson, also pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder-for-hire, corruption, conspiracy and firearms trafficking charges. Jackson is free on US$250,000 bond.

Yee, Jackson and 18 others were formally indicted last week after their arrests March 26. A total of 29 people have been charged in the organized crime investigation. Several have been arrested outside California and will have to appear in court in San Francisco at some point.

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