“Campaign contribution cases are the trickiest,” said Dennis Riordan, one of San Francisco’s top appellate criminal defense lawyers.
The Supreme Court has ruled that “people are entitled to donate to candidates to influence their actions and candidates are entitled to take into account the desires of their campaign donors when they vote,” Riordan said.
Because of that rule, federal prosecutors will have to prove that Yee understood the money he received was payment for official acts, Riordan said.
“You have to prove mental state, prove that was what the public official was thinking,” Riordan said.
The complaint against Yee said he repeatedly objected when undercover agents suggested the money represented “pay for play” transactions.
“I have never seen a case in which a complaint of public corruption conceded there were exculpatory statements of that kind,” Riordan said.