By the Daily Post staff
A Santa Clara County grand jury has indicted a county sheriff’s captain, two local lawyers and the owner of a gun parts manufacturer in an alleged scheme by the Sheriff’s Office to hand out concealed gun permits to political donors, District Attorney Jeff Rosen announced this morning.
However, Sheriff Laurie Smith has not been charged, though the investigation continues.
Capt. James Jensen, attorney Christopher Schumb, attorney Harpaul Nahal, and Milpitas weapons manufacturer Mike Nichols are accused of conspiring with AS Solution Inc., an international security company, to offer a $90,000 bribe to obtain permits for the company’s executive protection agents.
This allegedly took place in 2018, while Sheriff Laurie Smith — who had the authority to grant the CCW licenses — was in a race for re-election, both in the primary and general elections, the DA’s office noted in a statement.
The defendants are expected to be arraigned on the charges Aug. 31 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose. If convicted, the defendants could receive prison time.
The DA’s Office is continuing to investigate more crimes and other individuals related to the issuance of CCW licenses.
Special treatment for VIPs alleged
Rosen said the investigation “revealed a sad reality” that two different policies seem to exist within the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office for those seeking the concealed firearm permits.
“For the average member of the public, no matter how pressing or justified their need, if they follow the procedure… and mail in an application, it will not be reviewed,” Rosen said. “However, if you are, in
the words of Sheriff’s Captain James Jensen, a ‘VIP’, then he will meet you at Starbucks, personally review your application and help you fill it out.”
“Our concern is not whether the sheriff grants many or few CCW licenses, but whether they are being granted or denied for the wrong reasons,” Rosen said. “CCW licenses should not be given out in exchange for campaign donations. They should not be for sale.”
DA told he can’t spy on prisoners
Rosen ordered the search of the sheriff’s office shortly after the sheriff told him that he couldn’t secretly record the phone calls of inmates in the jail, which is run by the sheriff. Smith told Rosen that he needed a warrant, and she based her decision on court rulings.
Rosen today insisted that his investigation began earlier than that incident. He claimed it began in 2018, sparked by an inquiry from the Metro weekly about executive security licensing and an extremely large campaign donation, which was reported in public filings.
However, Smith’s opponents in at least two previous elections have raised the same issue as the Metro story.
Rosen today was asked why he didn’t turn the investigation over to the state Attorney General to avoid conflict-of-interest charges since the DA works closely with the Sheriff’s Office.
Rosen said he is capable of investigating fellow county officials, and he pointed to his office’s prosecution of former Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa on charges of perjury and misuse of public and campaign funds in 2018. Shirakawa was sentenced to a year in jail, and served seven months before he was released.
Rosen claims that in the sheriff’s case, the defendants settled on a $90,000 “donation” in exchange for 10 to 12 CCW licenses. After submitting seven CCW license applications to Jensen at a meeting, AS Solution manager Martin Nielsen donated the first half of that amount to the Santa Clara County Public Safety Alliance (“PSA”), an independent expenditure committee supporting Sheriff Smith. The $45,000 personal check, which Nielsen handed to the PSA’s assistant treasurer, Schumb, represented more than half of the funds raised by the PSA before the election that year. The second installment was forestalled by the DA investigation.
Martin Nielsen has not been charged.
In addition to bribery, the indictment charges Jensen with conspiring with AS Solution employees to put false information in their CCW license applications. Jensen advised Nielsen to instruct AS Solution employees who were not residents of Santa Clara County to use local corporate addresses as their residence addresses in their applications.
The Post is reaching out to the defendants and their attorneys for their side of the story.
All four of the defendants were released without having to post bail under new rules during the pandemic to limit the jail population. — Bay City News contributed to this report