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Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow, the one-time gang kingpin in San Francisco's Chinatown, took the stand in federal court Monday, testifying in his own defense in the murder trial. This is a rather unusual tactic given Chow's very sordid criminal past.
For some reason, Chow felt it necessary to make it known that the tie he wore to court Monday was bought by his girlfriend at Goodwill for $3.
Chow was ensnared in a operation that involved an undercover FBI agent who befriended Chow over the course of five years -- mole style, eventually gaining his trust. The aim was to prove that Chow and even now ex-Senator Leland Yee were involved in a massive racketeering empire as solicitation to murder Allen Leung. The agent, who is known only by the fake name "David Jordan" posed as an East Coast gangster. Jordan regularly met with Chow in fancy restaurants and in circumstances well lubricated with alcohol. He regularly passed money to Chow who never once refused it.
Jordan was forced recently to concede in court that he never divulged why he was giving Chow money. This massive opening has since become the focus for the defense which has been quick to underscore that Chow had no actual knowledge of an actual murder-for-hire.
Chow took the stand Monday and listened to proceedings of the court through a pair of headsets in Cantonese, as his English is limited. He proclaimed loudly that he had been waiting for a chance to say that he had nothing to do with the death of Allen Leung. "That," he said "is a fact."
Chow, whose credibility is at the heart of this trial, claims to have started his life in gangs while he was a youngster still in Hong Kong. But, he allegedly cleaned up his act some decades ago through meditation and self-discipline.
Chow has consistently worked hard to portray himself as a reformed man. However, his parading through the streets of Chinatown in flashy all-white suits (at Allen Leung's funeral no less) and mafia Don style glamour shots run counter to his narrative of redemption and abandonment of the gang lifestyle.
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