I wrote about an investigation into the Santa Clara County (CA) Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Laurie Smith back in June. NBC News Bay Area had started checking into just who was issued a carry permit. While the average person had about a 5.5% chance of getting it approved, if you were a big donor to the Smith re-election campaign your success rate skyrocketed to 79%. I noted at the time that the issue was still under investigation by the Santa Clara DA’s Office.
The District Attorney’s Office reported today that a grand jury has handed down indictments for felony bribery and conspiracy against four men including a captain in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, two attorneys, and a local business owner. A $90,000 “donation” was to be made to an independent campaign committee in exchange for 10-12 carry permits for employees of a security company.
Captain James Jensen, attorney Christopher Schumb, attorney Harpaul Nahal, and business owner Michael Nichols are accused of conspiring with the CEO and a middle manager of AS Solution, Inc., an international security company, to offer a $90,000 bribe to obtain concealed firearms permits (CCW licenses) for the company’s executive protection agents. This all took place in 2018, while Sheriff Laurie Smith — who had the authority to grant the CCW licenses — was in a hard-fought race for reelection, both in the primary and general elections.
The defendants are expected to be arraigned on the charges August 31, 2020 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. “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,” District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. “CCW licenses should not be given out in exchange for campaign donations. They should not be for sale.”
The DA’s investigation began shortly after the general election in 2018, sparked by an inquiry from the Metro Silicon Valley weekly about executive security licensing and an extremely large campaign donation, which was reported in public filings. The investigation found that weeks after the scheme was hatched, the conspirators settled on a $90,000 “donation” in exchange for 10 to 12 CCW licenses. After submitting 7 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.
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.
Captain Jensen is currently the head of the Training and Compliance Division of the Sheriff’s Office according to their website. Among the things he oversees is the Regional Firearms Training Facility.
Christopher Schumb is listed as a 2020 SuperLawyer and is a top-rate general litigation attorney in San Jose. He was admitted to the California Bar in 1984. Harpaul Nahal is also in private practice in San Jose and was admitted to the California Bar in 2010.
Mike Nichols is president of The Gun Company and is also VP Operations for Nichols Manufacturing which machines parts for the aerospace, defense, and firearms industries. The company holds a 07 FFL according to both their website and BATFE records.
If California had shall-issue carry by law, there would have been no need to bribe a sheriff’s office for issuance of a carry permit. As it is here and in many other locations that have may-issue carry, who you are and how much of a campaign contribution you make is more important than whether you are an honest, law-abiding citizen.