Tuesday Morning News Roundup
Firefighter Injured in Diamond Heights Fire Back on the Job
A firefighter was injured battling a blaze Monday afternoon at an apartment building in San Francisco’s Diamond Heights neighborhood, a fire department spokeswoman said.
The fire was first reported at 3:53 p.m. at a three-story apartment building at 5343 Diamond Heights Blvd., fire spokeswoman Mindy Talmadge said. Firefighters arrived within five minutes and saw smoke coming from the building. At about 4:30 p.m., Talmadge reported that the fire was under control.
Talmadge said one firefighter was injured and transported to the hospital. She was not able to say how severe the injury was. Fire crews at the scene have requested arson investigators, Talmadge said, either because the cause of the fire could not be determined or because it’s thought to be suspicious. The fire is believed to have originated in an apartment’s kitchen, Talmadge said.
Chow Trial Update: Serra Argues Chow is Charismatic Leader and Prosecution Witnesses are “Creepy Slimebags”
Veteran defense attorney Tony Serra told a federal jury in San Francisco Monday that Chinatown tong leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow is a “charismatic leader” and that tong members who testified against him are “creepy slimebags” desperate to have their sentences reduced.
“They will do anything to save their own skin. They would lie, they would cheat, they would testify against their own mothers if it got them out of jail.”
“You have to reject all testimony from any of these informants and cooperating defendants,” Serra argued to jurors in Chow’s racketeering and murder trial. Serra also said an undercover FBI agent who posed for four years as a Mafia member wanting to collaborate with tong members on crimes and who then testified against Chow was a “Judas liar.”
Serra, 80, began his closing argument Monday afternoon following a prosecution closing in which Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Badger called Chow a “ruthless, opportunistic, ego-driven thug.” Serra will complete his closing in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer Tuesday morning, after which prosecutors will have a rebuttal argument.
Breyer said at the end of Monday’s proceedings that he expects the jury to get the case for deliberation at midday on Tuesday. The closing arguments came after two months of trial for Chow, 56, a former convict who became the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in 2006.
Chow is accused of racketeering conspiracy and the murder in aid of racketeering of his dragonhead predecessor, Allen Leung, who was killed by a masked gunman in his Chinatown import-export office in February 2006. He is also charged with money laundering, conspiring in the trafficking of stolen goods and conspiring to murder another rival, Jim Tat Kong, who was fatally shot in Mendocino County in 2013. Prosecutors contend Chow ordered Leung’s murder and then took over the tong and ran a criminal faction of the group as an organized-crime enterprise.
“He stepped on Allen Leung’s body to regain power in Chinatown. Raymond Chow surrounded himself with criminals. He corrupted and controlled his power base,” Badger argued.
“He is the magnet that attracts all this activity. Everything revolved around Raymond Chow. That’s what racketeering is,” she said. Chow, who testified in his own defense last month, maintains that after completing a federal racketeering and gun trafficking sentence in 2003, he had an epiphany while meditating for three days at Ocean Beach in San Francisco and vowed to renounce crime.
“He looked deep into himself. He had to start over. He took a quasi-religious vow,” Serra told the jury Monday. Since then, he has devoted himself to good works and guiding Chinatown youth away from crime, Serra contended.
“There is no criminal enterprise,” Serra said, and tong associates “are not an extension of a criminal enterprise when they commit individual crimes.”
The FBI agent who posed as a Mafioso, identified in court only by his pseudonym of Dave Jordan, testified that Chow introduced him to associates who then carried out money laundering and purchases and sales of purportedly stolen cigarettes and liquor.
The agent said he paid Chow more than $60,000 in 24 envelopes of cash over three years as compensation for the introductions. Badger argued that recordings secretly made by the agent show that he explicitly told Chow what he was paying for in 22 of the 24 instances. But Serra said Chow believed the envelopes were gestures of love and respect and said his client didn’t need money because he was hoping to make $5 million to $7 million from an autobiographical book and possible movie deal.
On the recordings played in court, the agent is often heard saying, “I love you” as he gives Chow the envelopes of cash. During his closing, Serra said of the agent, “He can lie, misrepresent and say ‘I love you’ over and over. He can then turn around and bite you like a snake.”
At that point, Breyer broke in and reminded jurors that he had told them during jury instructions at the start of the day that agents are allowed to do illegal things during investigations. “The propriety of it is not up to the jury. Your job is to weigh the evidence,” Breyer told the jury. Serra then argued that the jurors could still consider the agent’s alleged deceit toward Chow in evaluating his credibility.
“You can look at that with greater scrutiny. He embellishes, he exaggerates” in the recorded conversations, Serra told the jurors. “This is a case that is fraught with reasonable doubt,” Serra
Badger argued that Chow learned from his previous convictions that he should beware of wiretaps, put on a face of being devoted to community service and seek to appear insulated from the crimes committed by his associates.
She contended that Chow’s alleged practice of avoiding direct references to crimes in his conversations was part of a carefully planned defense strategy that Chow expected to use if he were ever charged with crimes again.
“The man who wants you to believe him has based his whole life on deceit,” Badger argued. “Raymond Chow was not a changed man after he got out of prison. Raymond Chow has been planning for this defense ever since he was discharged from prison,” she alleged.
Local Scientists Aid in Discovery of 3 New Elements
A team of scientists in the Bay Area, working in concert with an international group of researchers, has officially discovered a trio of new elements, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
The lab’s officials announced Thursday that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry confirmed the discovery of elements 115, 117 and 118. The lab’s scientists collaborated with the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, as well as other researchers, to discover the elements.
“This is a very exciting time for our collaboration and shows that all of the hard work has paid off,” Dawn Shaughnessy, a principal investigator at the labs, said in a statement. Shaughnessy said creating a new chemical element can take “endless hours” and “years of work” by researchers, both locally and abroad.
None of the new elements have yet been named. Back in 2011, the global chemistry organization that recently confirmed the new elements officially named element 116 – another discovery that locals participated in – Livermorium, after the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
According to the lab’s officials, all of the elements are referred to as super-heavy elements. None are observed in nature. They can only be created in a lab. To date, element 118 is the heaviest element to be discovered. The discoveries are a significant step toward examining the existence of a region that extends the current periodic table to even heavier elements with the
potential for experimentation, lab officials said.
SF and Bay Area Weather Forecast and Advisories
High surf advisory is in effect from 6 a.m. this morning to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Today will see rain in the morning with a slight chance of thunderstorms, and rain likely in the afternoon. Highs will be in the mid 50s and west winds will reach 10 to 20 miles per hour.
Tonight there will be a chance of showers in the evening with rain after midnight. Lows will be in the upper 40s and southwest winds will reach around 10 mph, becoming southeast winds reaching 15 to 20 mph after midnight.
Wednesday will be breezy with rain and possibly heavy rain in the morning as well as a slight chance of thunderstorms. Highs will be in the mid 50s and south winds will reach 20 to 30 mph, decreasing to around 15 mph in the afternoon.