Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith found guilty in her civil corruption trial

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith found guilty in her civil corruption trial
Photo Credit: Santa Clara County
By Wesley Severson - Published on November 03, 2022.

After a month-long civil corruption trial, a grand jury has found Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith guilty of all six corruption and willful misconduct counts that she had been facing. Smith has been accused of giving out concealed-carry gun permits in exchange for political support and donations, as reported by Hoodline last year. She has also been accused of meddling with an internal investigation involving a high-profile jail inmate injury case. And she is also said to have accepted a luxury suite at a San Jose Sharks game as an unreported gift.

According to the Mercury News, after the six guilty verdicts were read, “Smith could be seen wiping away tears, and at one point, a man working with her defense team grabbed tissues to give to her. She left the courtroom clad in a face mask and sunglasses.” Neither Smith nor her attorney made any comment after the trial outside of the Old Courthouse in downtown San Jose. 

The guilty verdict was set to mean that Smith would be formally removed from the Sheriff's position. Undersheriff Ken Binder has already taken over as interim sheriff, after Smith announced her immediate retirement on Monday in the middle of jury deliberations. That move appeared meant to avoid a verdict in the civil trial, but a motion by Smith's attorney to dismiss the case because of the resignation was denied by the judge. Binder released a statement to ABC7 after the verdict saying, “the actions of a few people are not a reflection of the great work that our deputies do every day. The men and women of the Sheriff's Office are looking forward to new beginnings, with the Sheriff election coming up next week."

A permanent successor to Smith will be chosen during the election on November 10th. Retired Palo Alto police chief Robert “Bob” Jonsen is running against retired Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Captain Kevin Jensen. Smith announced last year she would not be running for re-election.

She became the state’s first female sheriff in California in 1998, but she started working for the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office in 1973.

The verdict may not have much of a legal effect on Smith since she has already stepped down, but she is banned now from running for any public office in the future. Smith will be back in court on November 16th when a judge will issue a formal removal of office order for Smith.