Campaign consultant Keith Jackson operated largely outside the spotlight for years as a political power broker in San Francisco.
Now, authorities have cast him as a player in a cash-for-guns political corruption investigation that led to charges against him and state Sen. Leland Yee.
Jackson was released from jail Thursday evening after a magistrate judge earlier in the day ordered him freed on $250,000 bond.
Federal prosecutor William Frentzen had argued in court that the seriousness of the charges means Jackson should remain behind bars until his trial, which has not yet been scheduled. Jackson’s lawyer James Brosnahan countered that his client is innocent, has no criminal record and has deep ties to San Francisco.
Among his various tasks in San Francisco, Jackson has been an aggressive fundraiser for Yee, a high-profile politician who was elected to represent San Francisco’s largely residential west side in the Legislature.
Jackson raised contributions for Yee’s unsuccessful mayoral campaign in 2011 and solicited campaign donations for the Democratic state senator’s now-aborted run for California secretary of state.
Jackson was arrested March 26 along with Yee and 18 others accused of having connections to a Chinatown organization that the FBI says was a front for a notorious crime syndicate.
Authorities say Jackson served as a middleman between Yee and the syndicate and helped funnel cash to the politician in exchange for political influence.
At the time Jackson was working for Yee, he was also serving as a consultant to the Chinatown organization Ghee Kung Tong, the FBI claims. The tong held itself out as a civic booster and community helper. However, the FBI alleges it was a front for the headquarters of a notorious organized crime syndicate led by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.
Chow remains behind bars and has not entered a plea to charges of money laundering, drug dealing and several other counts.
Yee is free on $500,000 unsecured bond and hasn’t entered a plea.
Jackson is accused of having worked with Yee to trade political favors for donations from Jackson’s contacts in the organization, who were actually undercover FBI operatives working to infiltrate the tong.
Jackson is also alleged to have been the catalyst of a cash-for-guns scheme that involved Yee connecting an undercover FBI operative with an international arms dealer in exchange for campaign contributions.
Specifically, Jackson is charged with six counts of public corruption, one count of conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and one count trafficking in firearms without license.
Jackson, who once served as the president of San Francisco’s school board, is also accused of plotting with his son and another man to kill someone in return for cash.