Embattled Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith was in court in San Jose Wednesday to begin her legal fight against corruption and misconduct charges.
Smith, who is in her 24th year as the county’s top cop, faces five counts of willful and corrupt misconduct for allegedly giving concealed weapons permits to campaign donors or special VIPs.
She also faces an additional count of misconduct for allegedly withholding information on a county investigation into a jail inmate who was injured while being transported.
The trial will be presided by a San Mateo County judge, a San Francisco assistant district attorney will prosecute and San Mateo County sheriff deputies will provide security.
Prominent Bay Area attorney Paula Canny who has often criticized the sheriff, said the court case is just political in nature since as a civil case, the punishment for Smith is to be removed from office and prohibit her from running again for any office.
“This is absurd,” Canny said. “She’s not seeking re-election, she’ll be termed out in less than two or three months.”
The two sheriff candidates in a runoff in November had a different reaction. In a statement, Bob Jonsen said the justice system should take its course. Candidate Kevin Jensen had a similar view.
“I think it’s important anytime someone has the public trust that they’re held accountable, and this sends a message that you cannot have ‘pay for play,” Jensen said.
NBC Bay Area Legal Analyst Dean Johnson said Smith’s credibility will be crucial in the trial.
“The real question for the jury is gonna be sheriff Smith’s state of mind,” he said.
Smith and her attorney declined to comment, but said they will probably talk publicly as the hearing goes on.
Jurors were told the civil trial is expected to last until Nov. 18th.
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Source: NBC Bay Area