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Judge Grants Motion To Keep Evidence In SF Corruption Case From Public

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The details of corruption charges filed against three former San Francisco public officials accused of taking bribes remain under seal after a judge Tuesday granted a protective order at the request of prosecutors.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Edward Torpoco granted the motion for an order prohibiting public disclosure of evidence in the case after hearing arguments that it could jeopardize undercover agents, witnesses and innocent parties in a federal investigation that led to the state charges.

Defense attorneys have objected to the order, saying it interferes with their ability to properly investigate the case and defend their clients, and said Tuesday they plan to appeal the ruling.

Keith Jackson, a former school board president turned political consultant, former Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer and former commission staff member Zula Jones are accused of soliciting and accepting $20,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for preferential treatment on city contracts.

They are each charged with four felony counts of bribery and one count of money laundering. Jackson also faces one count of grand theft of public money and six misdemeanor counts of campaign finance fraud.

The charges against Jackson, Mohajer and Jones originated from a larger federal investigation that resulted in the prosecution of Chinatown gang leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, state Sen. Leland Yee and Jackson, among others.

Chow was convicted in January of 162 counts including murder, while Yee and Jackson pleaded guilty last year to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy to accept campaign contributions in exchange for political favors.

Mohajer and Jones were not charged in the federal case, but their names were publicly connected to the case in excerpts of FBI wiretap applications cited in a filing by Chow's attorneys last year.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer had imposed a gag order in the federal case, but in March ruled that the state court was not bound by that order.

Mohajer, Jones and Jackson, who were arrested in January, have so far postponed entering a plea in the state case because of wrangling between prosecutors and defense attorneys over the protective order.

Entry of plea is now scheduled for July 20 but Jones' defense attorney John Keker said that could be further delayed if the appeal on the protective order is not complete before then.

Jackson, who is in federal custody, has so far not appeared in court but Torpoco Tuesday issued an order for his appearance at the next court date. Mohajer and Jones are out of custody on bail.

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