Jew seeks hearing in extortion case
"Known facts raise serious issues and suspicion"
Attorney for Gruel responds:
"As a citizen, Mr. Gruel passed on information
to the FBI
that had absolutely no evidentiary value"
Former District 4 Supervisor Ed Jew is seeking to hold an evidentiary
on possible goverment misconduct.
Photos by Luke
By Julia Cheever
February 20, 2008
Former San Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew asked a federal judge
yesterday to hold an evidentiary hearing on possible government
misconduct related to an alleged conflict of interest by Jew's
former defense attorney.
Jew, 47, who resigned from his supervisor post last month, is
accused in federal court in San Francisco of trying to extort
$84,000 from local business owners in exchange for help in obtaining
His current lawyer, Stuart Hanlon, filed a motion asking U.S.
District Judge Susan Illston to consider at a March 21 court session
whether to schedule a future evidentiary hearing.
Hanlon wrote that Jew is not alleging actual misconduct by prosecutors
at the moment, but said "the known facts raise serious issues
and suspicion." He said an evidentiary hearing is needed
to determine whether there is a basis for a defense motion for
dismissal of the charges.
Defense Attorney Stuart Hanlon
Hanlon claims Jew's former lawyer, Steven Gruel, had a conflict
of interest because Gruel told the FBI last May 2 about the alleged
shakedown, allegedly at the behest of State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San
Francisco/San Mateo, described by Hanlon as "a known political
opponent" of Jew. Gruel, now a private defense attorney,
had contacts within the FBI because he was formerly a federal
Defense Attorney Steven Gruel
Eighteen days later - after an FBI search allegedly turned up
$10,000 in marked bills at Jew's house in Burlingame - Gruel became
Jew's defense attorney.
Hanlon contended in the motion that a conflict waiver signed
by Jew didn't explain Yee's role and that prosecutors may have
engaged in misconduct by failing to investigate the conflict adequately
or tell the judge about it.
U.S. attorney's office spokesman Joshua Eaton said prosecutors
had no comment, but will respond later in a written answer that
is due by March 11.
Gruel said he couldn't comment on the case because of attorney-client
confidentiality. But Gruel's attorney, Richard Zitrin, said, "I
believe this pleading is nonsense."
Zitrin, a legal ethics professor, said, "Steven Gruel did
not have a conflict of interest and did absolutely nothing wrong.
He disclosed what he had to disclose.
"Mr. Hanlon must be really concerned about the evidence
to blow such transparent smoke as this," Zitrin charged.
Adam Keigwin, a spokesman for Yee, said the senator couldn't
comment beyond a Jan. 14 statement in which Yee said he was told
about the alleged extortion last April and "it was my ethical
responsibility to inform the proper law enforcement officials
Hanlon says in the filing that Yee was allegedly told of the
shakedown accusation by Jaynry Mak, who unsuccessfully ran against
Jew for the Sunset District supervisor seat in 2006.
The attorney contended that an evidentiary hearing may show that
prosecutors' failure to investigate the conflict "allowed
for a criminal investigation of Mr. Jew to take place that was
tainted by Leland Yee and Jaynry Mak."
Hanlon wrote, "It is not only concerning, but baffling,
that the accusations that began this entire investigation came
from Mr. Jew's own attorney."
Jew, the owner of a Chinatown flower shop, is accused in a Nov.
6 grand jury indictment of five counts of mail fraud, bribery
and extortion for allegedly soliciting $84,000 from the owners
of eight tapioca drink shops and a dessert cafi seeking city permits.
He also faces separate state criminal charges of perjury, election
code violations, voter fraud and providing false documents when
he allegedly lived in Burlingame rather than San Francisco when
running for office.
Gruel's defense attorney Richard Zitrin released the following
statement to Fog City Journal today:
Legal Ethics Expert Calls Conflict of Interest Motion against
Ed Jew's Former Attorney 'Nonsense'
San Francisco, Calif. (February 20, 2008) - Highly-respected
legal ethics expert and attorney Richard Zitrin today criticized
the motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by former San
Francisco Supervisor Ed Jew's new legal counsel.
The motion alleges that former supervisor Jew is the victim
of a "calculated attack" that includes his past attorney,
Steven Gruel, even though Gruel, in Zitrin's words, "did
absolutely nothing wrong." In fact, before agreeing to represent
Jew, Gruel disclosed his limited involvement in the initial FBI
investigation, and Jew signed a written waiver of any conflict
"As a citizen, Mr. Gruel passed on information to the
FBI that had absolutely no evidentiary value," said Zitrin,
a professor of legal ethics for 30 years and a practicing lawyer
with expertise in attorneys' ethics and conflicts of interest,
who has also been a certified criminal law specialist. "When
Jew later asked Gruel for representation, Gruel promptly disclosed
what had occurred. I can't imagine what purpose this motion serves
unless it's an effort to distract people from the real issue,
which is Mr. Jew's guilt or innocence. This motion looks like
nonsense to me."
Initially, Gruel alerted the FBI to the allegations about
Jew after he was told by state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco)
that the supervisor was allegedly extorting money from a business
owner. Yee heard about the allegations from Jew's rival candidate
in the November 2006 race for the District 4 board seat, Jaynry
Mak, who had been contacted by a store owner, according to FBI
documents. Last November, a federal grand jury indicted Jew on
two counts mail fraud, two counts bribery and one count extortion
in connection with a bribery scheme involving the franchise owners
of Quickly tapioca drink shops.
Despite previous assertions by Jew's attorney Stuart Hanlon,
said Zitrin, neither Yee or Mak have been ever been clients of
Gruel's. Hanlon was apparently confused when he said that Mak's
father, not Mak, was the candidate that ran against Jew.
Federal prosecutors will file a response to the motion on
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