Former sheriff appeals conviction

Former Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith at an August 2022 news conference at her office in San Jose. Bay City News photo.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is appealing a jury’s conviction that she traded gun permits for campaign donations, lied on campaign finance forms and covered up mismanagement in the jail.

Her appeal, filed on Dec. 19, is largely symbolic: Smith has already retired and been replaced, and the only punishment for her guilt was being removed from office.

Still, the disgraced sheriff has maintained her innocence despite a 12-member jury convicting her on six counts of corruption on Nov. 3 after a five-week trial.

Smith retired two days before she was convicted in an attempt to get the case dismissed, but a judge told the jury to keep deliberating.

Undersheriff Ken Binder stepped in as sheriff for a month, and former Palo Alto Chief Bob Jonsen began his four-year term on Dec. 8 after winning the election.

Smith has hired the Moskovitz Appellate Team to handle her appeal.

She is paying for her own lawyers, Santa Clara County Counsel James Williams said in an email yesterday.
Smith had previously asked the Board of Supervisors to pay for her defense, but they said no.

Smith, 70, was the sheriff for 24 years. She faced accusations of withholding gun permits for years before a Civil Grand Jury charged her with “willful and corrupt misconduct” in December 2021.

The case functioned similarly to an impeachment for a president, as Smith faced no criminal punishment beyond her removal. The proceeding was rare, as only one other elected official — Mountain View Councilman Mario Ambra — has been removed from office like her in Santa Clara County.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen said after Smith was convicted that he is waiting to see how the criminal trials go for former Undersheriff Rick Sung and Capt. James Jensen. Jensen and Sung were Smith’s top deputies who allegedly carried out her bribery scheme, and they’re expected to go to trial this year.

Previously, Rosen has said he didn’t have enough evidence to charge Smith. But the jury found her guilty of perjury, using the same burden of proof as a criminal trial.