The former sheriff of Santa Clara County, Laurie Smith, speaks into microphones at a press conference after the VTA mass shooting on May 26, 2021.
Former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is pictured in this file photo. Smith recently failed to appeal rulings related to a civil corruption case.

Former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith has lost her appeal of a court case that barred her from public office in 2022.

Smith argued that by retiring prior to being found guilty of six corruption and willful misconduct charges that year, the removal proceedings that disqualified her from jury service and her job were no longer necessary. But in a March 15 ruling, the state’s 6th Circuit appellate judges disagreed, instead sustaining the verdict that ended her 50-year law enforcement career.

Jurors in the civil trial determined that Smith’s office engaged in a pay-to-play scheme when granting gun permits to “VIP” friends and political donors.

“Although the judgment of removal here did not force Smith to relinquish office, it has at least one collateral consequence — it disqualifies her from serving on a trial jury — and therefore was not mooted by her retirement,” Justice Daniel H. Bromberg wrote in the ruling.

Smith declined to comment for this story.

In 2021, a civil grand jury charged Smith with misconduct in office and San Francisco prosecutors sought her removal. A civil trial began the next year in September, which resulted in a civil — but not criminal — conviction that permanently barred Smith from public office and would have removed her from her post, had she not abruptly retired. Smith appealed the case.

Toward the of end of her term as sheriff, there was increased scrutiny over her office’s management of the county jail system. Her successor Bob Jonsen started his job early, since the office lacked a permanent leader.

A series of injuries of mentally ill jail inmates in recent years led to a county investigation of Smith and other department leaders. In previous interviews with San José Spotlight, Smith blamed the county for warehousing mentally ill people in the jails, instead of building a psychiatric hospital, and for her department’s budget woes.

In one heavily publicized incident in 2018, inmate Andrew Hogan suffered major head injuries after he repeatedly slammed his head into the sides of a holding cage while being transferred between county facilities. The county settled with Hogan’s family for $10 million.

Smith is also being sued by a sheriff’s office employee who claims the former sheriff created a retaliatory and hostile work environment for workers who participated in the corruption investigation.

Lara McCabe, who was a management analyst under Smith, alleged in her lawsuit that Smith repeatedly “intimidated, harassed, and threatened” her and that county officials did nothing to stop it — despite multiple attempts by McCabe to seek help.

McCabe declined to comment on the appeal ruling on Smith’s corruption conviction. Her attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

“To protect the integrity and fairness of jury trials, we decline to place a thumb on the scale in favor of public officials whom a jury has found beyond a reasonable doubt to have committed malfeasance in office,” the ruling reads.

Contact Brandon Pho at [email protected] or @brandonphooo on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

Leave a Reply