A sheriff's captain, a gun parts manufacturer and two local lawyers have been indicted by a grand jury on felony bribery and conspiracy charges, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said Friday.
Sheriff's Capt. James Jensen, business owner Michael Nichols and the two attorneys, Christopher Schumb and Harpaul Nahal, are accused of conspiring with the chief executive officer and a middle manager from the security company AS Solution.
The company allegedly offered a $90,000 bribe in exchange for 10-12 concealed firearm permits for the company's executive protection agents, according to the district attorney.
Rosen said the investigation "revealed a sad reality" that two different policies seem to exist within the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office for those seeking the concealed firearm permits.
"For the average member of the public, no matter how pressing or justified their need, if they follow the procedure... and mail in an application, it will not be reviewed," Rosen said. "However, if you are, in the words of Sheriff's Captain James Jensen, a 'VIP', then he will meet you at Starbucks, personally review your application and help you fill it out."
AS Solution manager Martin Nielson donated $45,000, after submitting seven concealed carry weapon license applications to Jensen during a meeting, according to the district attorney. The money was allocated to the Santa Clara County Public Safety Alliance, which was supporting Sheriff Laurie Smith, who at the time "was locked into a tight election," Rosen said.
Nielson then wrote another $45,000 personal check in October 2018 for Schumb, who was the PSA's assistant treasurer, less than one month before the general election, the district attorney said.
"This $45,000 campaign contribution dwarfed all other campaign contributions and represented more than half of the funds raised by the PSA before the election that year," Rosen said.
That money was spent less than a week later to support the sheriff's reelection, according to the district attorney.
The indictment comes after an investigation started in November 2018, shortly after the general elections. It was sparked by an inquiry from the Metro Silicon Valley weekly about a large campaign donation and executive security licensing.
"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," Rosen said. "CCW licenses should not be given out in exchange for campaign donations. They should not be for sale."
The investigation is still active. Jensen will be placed on administrative leave, the sheriff's office said.
The defendants will be arraigned on the charges Aug. 31 at the Hall of Justice in San Jose and could face prison time if convicted.
"This D.A.'s office will vigorously pursue the truth, wherever it leads and hold everyone properly accountable regardless of who they are, how well connected they are or who they know," Rosen said.