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Santa Clara Co. Sheriff faces civil corruption charges that could lead to removal

Santa Clara Co. Sheriff faces civil corruption charges that could lead to removal
Photo Credit: Santa Clara Co. Sheriff's Office
By Wesley Severson - Published on December 16, 2021.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith now faces formal corruption charges from a civil grand jury which could eventually lead to her removal. Smith is accused of seven corruption-related acts. One alleges that Smith refused to cooperate in the investigation into the treatment of Andrew Hogan, an inmate who suffered a severe head injury in 2018 while he was being transported by officers. That case led to a county settlement of $10 million. The other six corruption-related acts involve political favoritism and the alleged issuing of concealed weapons permits in exchange for political donations.

As previously reported by Hoodline, the accusations of political corruption date back to April of 2018 when 12 concealed-carry permits were allegedly given to a tech security firm in exchange for $90,000 that supported Smith's 2018 re-election campaign. But the accusations ended up almost completely revolving around two commanders within the sheriff’s office along with the undersheriff, and a captain. Smith’s personal attorney told the Mercury News that questions about Smith’s direct involvement in the case were actually dismissed by the civil grand jury with some of the questions clearly marked with the words “no.”

“The most striking thing about this work by the grand jury is that they completely exonerated the sheriff on these accusations the district attorney has thrown around for years, with regards to illicit dealings with the gun permits. The fact the grand jury saw through that and descriptively said ‘No’ says volumes. The sheriff looks ahead to the rest of the accusations being put to rest and appreciates the work the grand jury has done so far,” attorney Allen Ruby said in a statement to the Mercury News.

In August, Hoodline reported that the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors took a vote of no-confident in response to the accusations against Smith while demanding an investigation into her oversight of the Santa Clara County Jail. Later that month San Jose Mayor held a press conference demanding Smith resign. He accused her of bribery and allowing a "pay to play" culture to exist within the jail’s correctional officers. Liccardo also claimed that Smith required some officers to turn off their body cameras when taking suspects to jail. The next day, we reported that Smith held her own press conference to say she would not step down and that she welcomed the investigations.

It’s important to note that since the accusations are from a civil grand jury, Smith is not facing any criminal charges. She is expected in court on January 12th to face the grand jury’s accusations. She is expected to dispute them which means a jury would formally hear the case. If she loses, she could be removed from her post as sheriff, which she has held since 1998.

“All you can be is sad that it came to this. This is the process working as it should. Significant issues have been raised, and now there will be a venue in which the civil grand jury’s accusations can be heard,” Supervisor Joe Simitian told the Mercury News.