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United States v. Chow

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

April 19, 2019, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; May 15, 2019, Filed

No. 16-10348, No. 17-10246


 [*431]  MEMORANDUM2

Defendant Kwok Cheung Chow—also known as "Raymond Chow" or "Shrimp Boy" (hereinafter "Chow")—was found guilty of racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy to sell stolen liquor and cigarettes across state lines. For these crimes, Chow was sentenced to life in prison. Because the parties are familiar with the facts of this case, we recite them only as necessary to explain our decision. Chow raises four distinct challenges on appeal, we take each in turn.

Chow argues that the district court erred [**2]  by withholding the identities of two undercover FBI agents who testified against him at trial. ] "The decision to deny disclosure of an informant's identity is reviewed for abuse of discretion." United States v. Gil, 58 F.3d 1414, 1421 (9th Cir. 1995).

In this case, the undercover FBI agents' identities are classified, and the government has put forward evidence (which we reviewed in camera) strongly suggesting that disclosure of the agents' identities would threaten their safety. Balancing this concern against Chow's interest in discovering the agents' identities, we hold that the district court did not abuse its discretion by ordering the agents' identities withheld.

Chow also argues that the district court erred by partially closing the courtroom during the undercover agents' testimony. ] The Sixth Amendment provides that in a criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy a public trial. U.S. Const. amend. VI. But the right to a public trial "is not absolute," United States v. Yazzie, 743 F.3d 1278, 1286 (9th Cir. 2014), and a judge may order a partial courtroom closure if: (1) there is a substantial reason for the partial closure, and (2) the closure is "narrowly tailored to exclude spectators only to the extent necessary to satisfy the purpose for which it was ordered." United States v. Sherlock, 962 F.2d 1349, 1357 (9th Cir. 1989). The government had a substantial reason for preventing public [**3]  disclosure of the undercover agents' identities (discussed above), and the district court's partial courtroom closure during their testimony was narrowly tailored to serve that substantial interest, while preserving the public's right of access to the trial by viewing a live video of the agents' testimony  [*432]  (with their faces obscured) from another room. Chow's Sixth Amendment right to a public trial was not violated.

Chow next argues that the district court erred by not granting him a new trial due to the government's improper use of his prior statements against him at trial. ] Because Chow did not object to the admission of these statements, we review for plain error. United States v. Larsen, 596 F.2d 347, 348 (9th Cir. 1979) (per curiam).

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772 Fed. Appx. 429 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 14392 **

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. KWOK CHEUNG CHOW, AKA Shrimp Boy, AKA Raymond Chow, AKA Ha Jai, Defendant-Appellant.UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. KWOK CHEUNG CHOW, AKA Raymond Chow, AKA Ha Jai, AKA Shrimp Boy, Defendant-Appellant.


Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, Rehearing denied by, En banc United States v. Kwok Cheung Chow, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24674 (9th Cir. Cal., Aug. 19, 2019)

US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Kwok Cheung Chow v. United States, 140 S. Ct. 915, 205 L. Ed. 2d 505, 2020 U.S. LEXIS 103, 2020 WL 129987 (U.S., Jan. 13, 2020)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:14-cr-00196-CRB-1. D.C. No. 3:14-cr-00196-CRB-1. Charles R. Breyer, District Judge, Presiding.

United States v. Chow, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68547 (N.D. Cal., May 19, 2014)

Disposition: AFFIRMED in part; REVERSED AND REMANDED in part.


murders, forfeiture, conspiracy, post-trial

Criminal Law & Procedure, Discovery by Defendant, Informants, Appellate Review & Judicial Discretion, Preliminary Proceedings, Speedy Trial, Constitutional Right, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Right to Public Trial, Standards of Review, Plain Error, Evidence, Counsel, Assignment of Counsel, Substitution & Withdrawal, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Right to Counsel, Effective Assistance of Counsel, Reviewability, Sentencing, Forfeitures