Scramble
Part Five


 
On April 3, 1978, a Monday, Levine took a call from a gentleman identifying himself as lawyer George Walker. "I've been approached by some people involved in the Golden Dragon," said the affable voice. "They want a deal. Let's get together."
Levine agreed to hear him out. The name meant nothing to him, but, in asking around, he was told only good things. Walker had been a big basketball star at the University of San Francisco a few years before. He was a close personal friend of Chief Assistant District Attorney Dan Weinstein. Tall, slender, black, very dashing, great presence, smart--Walker had it all.
After the telephone conversation, Levine advised the Gang Task Force of what was in the offing. An excited group including Dan Murphy, John McKenna and Ed Rudloff gathered in the office Levine and Rudloff shared.
Walker strode in at the appointed time and presented himself to Levine, who took him to the others, most of whom Walker already knew.
The discussion proved to be quite vague. It wasn't clear how many people Walker was representing, nor was it clear that he had fully decided to take on their ongoing representation. He wasn't specific about who had done what. He seemed not to be sure about their last names, and mentioned no first names.
The Task Force got the impression that these people, whomever they were, had skittered into Walker's office like scared rabbits, left a few droppings, and scrambled out again. The lawyer was simply feeling his way through what promised to be an even bigger mess.
The word to Walker was that the G.T.F. was in no position to make offers without knowing more.
Walker left the door open by saying he would be away for a week or so. He would come back in then with all the information they needed for dealing.
When the lawyer left, Levine turned off the tape recorder he'd hidden in the wastebasket under sheets of paper. The meeting had hardly been worth the trouble to turn on the machine, but that surreptitious taping would come up a month later when Walker, who would consider it a crooked hand, somehow found out about it and felt that his own credibility and integrity had been called into question.
Such had not been Levine's intent. His embarrassment was compounded when Walker asked for a copy of the tape, and someone else inadvertently destroyed it during the copying process. All this came out in court, leading Levine into lengthy explanations in the cause of a tape that of itself had amounted to nothing. It took time doing, but Levine eventually assuaged Walker's righteous wrath by making him understand it had been for the protection of Walker's credibility, as well as for his own--a lesson he had learned from sad experience in New York. The lawyer finally accepted the D.A.'s argument and made peace.
Levine was born to walk a tight wire. He knew it, so took little notice of the classic conversational opener the incident earned him: "Hugh Levine? Oh, yes, the 'wastebasket case'!" More important to him was keeping George Walker's respect.
That was all in the future when Walker resumed negotiations on April 18th. This time, he told them he had "a driver" (of the car used for transporting the shooters to and from the Golden Dragon); he had "the person who answered the telephone call" (tipping the kids off to the presence of rival gangsters in the restaurant that night), and "a person who helped steal the car."
The G.T.F. didn't know whom he was talking about.
Walker wanted the California Youth Authority for the car driver and immunity for the telephone-call answerer and the car thief.
The Force STILL didn't know who the heck these kids were. Of course, they knew whom they ought to be, but Walker had said they lived in San Francisco. The boys Levine and company had in mind lived in SOUTH San Francisco. So if not them....? The G.T.F. set up a pool with quarters and made bets on the identities. Levine guessed Sai Ying Lee as one of the three. Nope, he wasn't, and nobody else guessed right, either--except Lt. Murphy. The shrewd Walker wouldn't talk. He suggested that the Task Force do the talking--to Freitas--and clear the deal right away. They did.
They returned to the lawyer, and Levine told him: "It's O.K., but only on two conditions: whom they are, and they have to be telling the truth as we understand the evidence now. Otherwise, no deal."
A meeting was agreed upon for 5:30 the following day, April 19th, at the lawyer's office. "They'll be with me," Walker promised. After he left, everyone got excited: "Jesus, we're gonna bust these people! This is the case! God, isn't it great? But who the hell are they?" Nobody could figure that out.
A contingent of interested parties trooped off to see Walker the next afternoon: Levine, Rudloff, McKenna, Schneider and Murphy.
His office was located in Jackson Square, not a plaza, per se, but a reconstructed area of a few square blocks sandwiched in by Chinatown, the Broadway Strip (also known as the Latin Quarter), Embarcadero Center and the fringes of the Financial District (also known as "the Wall Street of the West"). Officially declared open on June 5, 1957, as San Francisco's "interior design center," the mostly red-brick-and-glass contemporary buildings, nicely set off by trees, later became a haven for successful attorneys whose image called for a connection with expensive antiques and the last word in high style.
And there they sat--the three mysterious clients on whose behalf George Walker had conducted negotiations: not rabbits, though frightened they must have been upon hearing of Stuart Lin's arrest, but bamboo tigers Tom, twin Dana, and younger Chester, Yu, all of whom the Task Force people and Levine recognized immediately from their photographs. Walker hadn't got it straight in the beginning. The Yu's lived in SOUTH San Francisco, not in The City itself. Lt. Murphy won the pool!
Levine noticed that while Walker crooned the boys' tale from a stack of notes, a shamelessly visible tape recorder went about its work. The cops and the D.A. listened. What the youths (Tom and Dana, 19; Chester, then 16) had confessed as their roles in the Golden Dragon seemed plausible only in part, based on what the Force already knew.
Perfect guests, the visitors from the Hall of Justice said not a word to interrupt the proceedings. They listened politely. At the end, Levine said, "We'd like to step outside and discuss this among ourselves."
After a brief discussion, they called Walker to join them. "We don't think they're telling the truth," Levine apprised him." The lawyer's response was that of a first-rate advocate: "If they're not telling me the truth, I don't want anything to do with them. Give me something I can go back and confront them with." No pettifogger, he!
They told him what the Task Force thought was true. Walker went back to the Yu triad, returned again to the cops, then to the Yu's, then to the cops, back and forth, and finally agreed, at least temporarily, upon this: immunity for Dana, the California Youth Authority for Chester, and no deal for Tom, who would not then be arrested due to insufficient evidence.
The cops took Dana and Chester to the Hall of Justice for further interrogation.
Chester revealed that he knew where the Golden Dragon arsenal had been disposed of. He offered to take them there. As good as his word on that subject, he led them to the spot, but it was long past dark, so they had to return the next day. On the 20th, they recovered several pieces, and on Chester's 17th birthday, April 21st, they found the rest.
Now was the time for Peter Ng. Still in custody at the C.Y.A. in Stockton, for his armed robbery case, he was confronted on the same day the last weapon pieces came into the hands of police. Given the news that he was being placed under arrest as a shooter in the Golden Dragon, "the Hundred-Year Egg" showed no cracks, but the Task Force no longer cared. Ways had been found to scramble even this hard-boiled egg.
Scrambling rotten eggs, and looking for more to make their crazy omelette even more delicious, kept the Dragon Force busy during the month of April.
Scrambling feet kept the Golden Dragon perpetrators on the move, if not toward George Walker, then at least away from the law.
On Tuesday, April 25th, Fred Mollat had to cash a check. Every time he and his partner, Dan Foley, passed a Bank of America branch, another call came over the air and sent them racing to a different part of town. Everywhere they went, they kept an eye out for one elusive Chinese--Tony Szeto. They had looked since the 19th, without success. That was the day Chester Yu revealed the location of the guns used in the Golden Dragon massacre, and the name of the person who had put them there--Tony Szeto. The weapons had proved easier to find than he.
At 2:55, five minutes before bank-closing time, Mollat took his last shot at cashing the check. He saw a parking place across the street from the Bank of America at the Mandarin Towers on Stockton in Chinatown. Mollat headed for it, ready to stake his claim, but a battered old pickup truck was double-parked just in front, Chinatown-style. Mollat needed the space to back into his spot. Grumbling aloud about "Chinese drivers," he gave the horn a couple of good toots. The young man insolently ignored him, got out, and waited for a chance to dash to the bank.
Both cops glared at his back with angry eyes, till Foley suddenly caught sight of his face when the guy turned his head to check oncoming traffic.
A sense of dj vu swept over the cop. With it, came remembrance of the day on Amherst Street when he saw Gan Wah Woo walking toward Peter Cheung's house.
"Hey, Fred," he said a second later, "is that a little old lady with a shopping bag, or is that Tony Szeto?"
"Tony Szeto!" echoed Mollat, already halfway out the door.
During Stuart's confession on March the 24th, Tony Szeto had been mentioned, although not in connection with the guns. So that evening, blissfully ignorant of Stuart's arrest, he had been brought in for questioning, but it turned out to be all "hard-eye," and no answers. Foley, disgusted, had said: "All right, Tony, you can go. But someday we'll come and get you and arrest you for your part in the Golden Dragon massacre!"
When Mollat and Foley accosted him on the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America on April 25th, a glance at Foley's pixilated grin drew a sour grimace from the 20-year-old. "Tony," said Foley, "this is that day!" Tony was placed under arrest.
Scrambling, for some, translated as a bit of fancy footwork (in the days before "break" dancing became popular) when spotlighted at center stage. The G.T.F.'s Larry Ryan and Bob Bonnet went calling on another "brother act" on April 27th, but they were interested in only one of the boys, Donald Wong. Don's sibling, Jeffrey, drove up just as Ryan and Bonnet were about to give up on anybody answering the door at the Wong household on Pamela Court in Daly City.
Jeffrey assured them Donald was at home. "Then would you be kind enough to tell him to come to the door?" suggested one of the plainclothesmen. Jeffrey did so, but his accommodating mood changed to one of fury when he saw them present his brother with a warrant of arrest. The Ryan/Bonnet report on the incident states succinctly: "After the ensuing struggle, the suspects were transported to the Daly City Police Department...." Don was then taken to the Y.G.C. to face charges in connection with the Golden Dragon incident; Jeffrey was booked in Daly City for interfering with an arrest.
 

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2000 Brockman Morris