A longtime San Francisco Bay Area sheriff is brought to trial on public corruption charges related to her bureau’s approval of concealed weapons and costly mismanagement in the prison.
The unusual case against Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is a civil process to remove an elected official, but is similar to a criminal case in which prosecutors from another jurisdiction are to avoid a conflict of interest. The jury selection starts on Wednesday.
The trial follows an investigation into allegations that Smith’s office traded covert donation licenses for her re-election campaign and mismanaged prisons where mentally ill inmates died or were injured. Smith is also accused of concealing documents relating to a prison investigation for internal affairs and lying on campaign financial forms.
She denied the allegations. Her attorney, Allen Ruby, declined to comment.
Smith announced in March that she was not seeking re-election. Her term ends in January, but if the jury finds only one judgment correct, she will be removed early.
It is also under investigation by Attorney General Rob Bonta, which is trying to determine whether her office has “engaged in unconstitutional patterns or practices” that could merit corrective action.
Smith has been the sheriff of Santa Clara County, Silicon Valley’s headquarters, since 1998.
Last year, the district board of directors unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in Smith and demanded external investigations by the attorney general and the county grand jury.
In December, a civilian grand jury filed a complaint with the Supreme Court, in which it charged Smith with six counts of “willful and corrupt misconduct.”
The first charge accused her of “implementing a policy or practice” granting a license to carry concealed firearms based on whether the applicant was a campaign donor, a member of the sheriff’s nonprofit advisory board, a prominent figure in the community, or was associated with prominent individuals, corporations or “Otherwise had a personal relationship” with the sheriff.
The grand jury argued that Smith did not make individual determinations on good cause regarding the grounds for non-VIP applications for concealed bearer permits, keeping them indefinitely.
Smith has also allegedly accepted an unlawful gift of tickets to a San Jose Sharks corporate suite for a hockey game, along with food and drinks totaling more than the $ 500 limit from a single source.
Smith then allegedly failed to declare the gift in his annual statement of economic interests and committed perjury in certifying the affidavit, the grand jury alleged.
In another case, the grand jury claimed that Smith had committed “willful misconduct” by failing to report to the District Prison and Law Enforcement Office.
This office was looking for information regarding an internal investigation into a 2018 incident where a mentally ill man seriously injured himself in a prison transport van, leading to a family settlement of $ 10 million.
During the vote of no confidence in the Board of Supervisors, they expressed concern about the pattern of conduct in prisons.
In 2015, one inmate was beaten to death by three prison guards, and another inmate died after the guards shot him with a riot gun at close range. Both prisoners suffered from a mental illness.