Despite a prosecutor's claim that former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson is "one-man crime wave," a federal magistrate agreed Tuesday to release him on bail if he can post adequate property on bond.
U.S. Magistrate Nathanael Cousins ordered Jackson, 49, to return to his courtroom in San Francisco Thursday for a further hearing on the sureties to be posted. He did not announce the amount of the bail.
Jackson, a political consultant who presided over the Board of Education for four years in the 1990s, is one of 26 people, also including suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, charged in a wide-ranging criminal complaint last week.
He is accused of funneling campaign contributions to Yee in exchange for political favors to donors, plotting to distribute drugs, conspiring with Yee in a proposed $2 million international arms deal, and aiding in the arrangement of a proposed murder-for-hire.
The alleged arms deal and murder-for-hire plans were discussed with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Mafia member and never happened, according to the 137-page complaint filed by prosecutors.
Outside of court, defense attorney James Brosnahan said, "Mr. Jackson is not only presumed innocent, he is innocent. He is not guilty of anything."
Brosnahan, a veteran defense and civil rights attorney and former San Francisco Bar Association president, charged that the case "has a phantasmagorical aspect" and the complaint "was designed to create a sort of hysteria."
In court, arguing for Jackson's release on bail, Brosnahan told Cousins the case resulted from undercover agents "trolling in the city" to find people they could test for crimes.
"FBI agents experiencing a slow day went out to see if they could get people to listen to them about crime," Brosnahan maintained.
He said the undercover agents who approached Jackson "portrayed themselves to be honest businesspeople" with plans that might benefit the city by providing jobs and housing.
"There's no murder, no body. All there is is an FBI agent talking," Brosnahan told Cousins.
Jackson, who appeared in court in yellow Alameda County jail clothing, has been in custody since Wednesday, when he and most of the defendants were arrested by the FBI in surprise raids.
While Cousins did not announce the amount of bail, he noted that the court's pretrial services staff recommended release on $250,000 bond. Brosnahan asked for bail of $100,000 and said he believed the amount could be met by a surety of Jackson's mother's house in Texas.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen argued that Jackson should be kept in custody on the grounds that he is both a flight risk and a danger to the public.
"Mr. Jackson was involved for almost three years in what can be characterized as almost constant criminal activity in very different ways, shapes and forms," Frentzen alleged.
"He was basically a one-man crime wave in terms of facilitating a wide variety of crimes," the prosecutor said, who asserted that "all of this is on tape" recorded by several undercover agents.
Frentzen also alleged that Jackson brought his son, Brandon Jackson, 28, into the some of the schemes. Brandon Jackson, who was arrested in Massachusetts and has not yet appeared in federal court in San Francisco, is charged with conspiring to distribute drugs, gun trafficking and participating in the alleged murder-for-hire plot.
The prosecutor alleged that the two Jacksons and a third man "solicited and solicited" the undercover agent who pretended to be a Mafioso for one and one-half years to supply cocaine so that Brandon Jackson could expand an allegedly already existing marijuana operation.
In a detail not included in the complaint, Frentzen alleged that an undercover agent was given $275,000 in cash for the purported wholesale cocaine buy the night before last week's arrests.
Most of the defendants, including Yee, who has been released on a $500,000 bond, are due back before a different magistrate on April 8 for an arraignment on an expected grand jury indictment.
Frentzen gave several hints during his arguments of additional charges that may appear in a potential indictment.
He alleged that there was fraudulent credit card activity and said, "That portion of the case has not been charged yet, but it's coming."
He also alleged there was "an extortion scheme to shake down campaign contributions that is not charged yet, but it is recorded."