'No one is above the law': Former sheriff found guilty of corruption, misconduct

Just days after former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith retired, she was found guilty of six civil counts of corruption and willful conduct.

The trial against Smith stems from a 2021 Santa Clara County civil grand jury.

Acting Sheriff Ken Binder said he respects the court's decision and is looking forward to turning the page.

"The actions of a few people are not a reflection of the great work that our deputies do every day," Binder said. "The men and women of the Sheriff’s Office are looking forward to new beginnings, with the Sheriff election coming up next week."

Smith retired on Halloween, avoiding removal from office, after nearly a half-century in law enforcement. Removal from office would have been the penalty for a guilty verdict. Smith is also now barred from future public office.

Smith started her career in 1973, and was elected Sheriff in 1998, becoming the first female County Sheriff in the state. Still, after serving six terms, Santa Clara County D.A. Jeff Rosen says the people should know that everyone, including law enforcement, will be held accountable. 

The trial against the embattled sheriff involved allegations that Smith’s office traded concealed weapons permits for donations to her reelection campaign and mismanaged the jails, where mentally ill inmates died or were injured.

Smith was also accused of withholding documents concerning an internal affairs jail investigation and lying on campaign finance forms.

Smith had no comment on this story. 

"We are gratified that the jury considered all the evidence that we uncovered during a lengthy and detailed investigation and found all allegations against the sheriff to be true," Rosen told reporters. "We look forward to looking forward to working with the next sheriff and all the hard-working and honest men and women in the sheriff's office to serve our community with honesty and integrity."

On Tuesday, November 8, voters will elect the County’s next Sheriff, a race between long-time Santa Clara County Deputy Kevin Jenson and former Palo Alto Police Chief Bob Jonsen.  

"This is an opportunity for our community and for the Sheriff’s Office to turn the page. I welcome the next sheriff, whoever that is and look forward to working with him," Rosen said.    

Rosen says three other people have already admitted to bribery involving concealed weapons permits. Two other bribery trials for Undersheriff Rick Sung and Capt. James Jensen will start in January.   

"No one is above the law and that's a fundamental principal of our democracy that has been tested in the last several years by many political scandals," said Rosen.

Although Smith resigned before the verdict, Rosen says he expects the judge to still formally remove her as sheriff on November 16.  

KTVU's LaMonica Peters contributed to this report.