Federal prosecutors announced Monday they will not seek a death penalty against Chinatown fraternal association leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow if he is convicted of causing the murder of his predecessor as the group's leader.
The decision, disclosed in a court filing, means the charge of the murder in aid of racketeering of Allen Leung in 2006 will be included in Chow's Nov. 9 trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco.
Other charges against Chow in that trial include racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to receive and transport stolen property, dozens of counts of money laundering, and conspiracy to solicit a second murder, of former associate Jim Tat Kong in Mendocino County in 2013.
If the U.S. Justice Department had chosen to seek a death penalty for the 2006 Leung murder, that charge would have been tried in a separate, later trial. The reason is that a potential death sentence affects jury selection because it is necessary to choose jurors willing to vote for capital punishment.
The decision of whether to seek a death penalty was made by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch after receiving a recommendation from a Justice Department committee.
If Chow, 55, is convicted of Leung's murder in the upcoming trial, he would now face the alternate penalty under federal law of life in prison.
The second charge of conspiring to solicit Kong's murder in 2013 carries a maximum 10-year sentence upon conviction. The two murder-related counts were added to previous charges against Chow in a revised grand jury indictment on Oct. 15.
Leung, then the dragonhead or leader of the Chee Kung Tong association, was fatally shot by a masked gunman in his import-export office in San Francisco on Feb. 27, 2006.
Chow became the dragonhead later that year.
Prosecutors claim that a criminal faction of the Chee Kung Tong operated as an ongoing organized-crime enterprise.
Chow was one of 29 people charged last year in a wide-ranging indictment that also included political corruption charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.
Yee and his fundraiser, former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson, pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to accept bribes in exchange for political favors by Yee. Jackson's son and one other man pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
Chow was then scheduled to go to trial this fall with seven co-defendants on racketeering conspiracy and organized crime charge. But the seven others all pleaded guilty to various charges.
Two of those co-defendants are now expected to testify against Chow on the new murder-related counts, according to a prosecution filing.
The federal prosecutors had told Breyer that because of Chow's previous criminal record, they would be required under federal rules to seek a death penalty for the murder in aid of racketeering unless the attorney general decided against it. Chow's record includes previous federal convictions on firearms trafficking and racketeering charges.
Jury selection in the upcoming trial will take place on Nov. 2 and 3 and opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 9.