2014-06-16 by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross for "San Francisco Chronicle" [http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/matier-ross/article/How-Joe-Montana-refused-to-play-ball-when-FBI-5554528.php]:
The FBI sent an undercover agent posing as a real estate investor to meet with Joe Montana in an attempt to lure the 49er great into a sting, according to a defense attorney in the Leland Yee case who was made privy to certain details of the government's investigation.
"It shows the deepest lack of judgment I can imagine," said the attorney, James Brosnahan.
The undercover agent set up the meeting to discuss a possible investment in Montana's planned hotel development next to the 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara, Brosnahan said.
He said he didn't know if the agent was wearing a wire when he met with Montana a couple of years back at a South Bay restaurant, though the feds regularly did that during the investigation that resulted in the indictments in March of Yee, the now-suspended state senator from San Francisco, and 28 others.
The agent "presented himself as an honest businessman who wanted to invest in Montana's hotel," Brosnahan said.
There is no indication that Montana was asked to do anything illegal, and we're told he showed no interest in taking on a new partner.
In the end, Brosnahan said, the government backed off because it "wasn't going to fund investments in a hotel."
The Montana meeting was part of a four-year investigation in which the FBI pointed undercover agents at a variety of targets, including Yee and Brosnahan's client, former San Francisco school board President Keith Jackson, to try to ferret out corruption.
"In a sting, they have real reason to believe someone is committing a crime," Brosnahan said. "But here they fanned out all over California to see who would talk to them about anything."
The U.S. attorney's office, which is prosecuting Yee, Jackson, Chinatown tong leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow and the other 26 defendants, declined to comment on the apparent targeting of Montana. And neither the FBI nor Montana's attorney, Rob Mezzetti, returned our calls.
Brosnahan said the FBI meeting with Montana is evidence of how far the feds were ready to go to make a case.
"Who decided to take Joe to lunch and cast a cloud on Northern California's greatest sports hero?" he said. "Nobody was exercising any judgment about the scope of this thing."
It should be noted that Montana's partner in the 9.5-acre development deal near Levi's Stadium, Kurt Wittek, was convicted of bank fraud by a federal jury in 1992 after he helped a business associate secure an illegal loan to buy a North Carolina savings and loan. He later got part of the case tossed on appeal, and his five-year prison sentence was reduced to probation.
As we first reported last month, fear that Montana's name would bubble up as part of the FBI's corruption probe was among the reasons U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer issued a protective order barring prosecutors and defense attorneys from disclosing certain evidence to the public, including wiretaps and recordings.
Brosnahan said he wasn't violating the order because none of his comments "come from any of the protected evidence."
It was Brosnahan - one of the defense lawyers assigned to negotiate the terms of the protective order - who alerted his colleagues that Montana was among those the government was looking to shield.
Brosnahan had earlier declined our request to talk about the Montana matter. But now he's speaking up, in what appears to be a defense strategy to paint the feds as overzealous in their campaign to root out public corruption.