Home>Articles>Attorney General Rob Bonta Launches Civil Rights Investigation Into Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith

Attorney General Rob Bonta. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Attorney General Rob Bonta Launches Civil Rights Investigation Into Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Requested probe last year

By Evan Symon, January 20, 2022 2:32 am

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Wednesday that he would be launching a Civil Rights investigation into Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.

Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith (Photo: countysheriff.sccgov.org)

Smith, a graduate of San Jose State, California Polytechnic University at Pomona, and the FBI Academy, was elected and sworn in as Santa Clara County’s Sheriff in 1998 following 8 years as the Assistant Sheriff. While Smith has received praise during her long tenure, such as winning the Assembly’s Woman of the Year Award and being the President of the California State Sheriff’s Association, she has facing increasing criticism since the early 2010’s over many of her actions and actions of the department under her watch.

In 2011, a lawsuit alledged that Smith had given concealed carry permits on a preferential basis, favoring family, friends, and donors, with later findings showing that the permits were given out on a basis of who donated to her reelection campaign.

Several Santa Clara County Jail guards also wound up convicted of killing a mentally disabled inmate in 2017, the result of which led to a more difficult reelection race than usual for Smith. This was followed by a 2018 incident where a man inflicted injuries to himself while in a Sheriff’s Department van.

However, the biggest shifts have come within the last few years. In 2020, five members of the Sheriff’s office, including Undersheriff Rick Sung, were indicted for their roles in the concealed carry controversy. Smith followed them in December of 2021, being indicted by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury on seven counts of corruption and misconduct. Last week in court she did not enter a plea.

In addition, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors also gave a no-confidence vote of Smith last year for not providing social safety-nets for those with mental illnesses.

A state investigation

The growing number of accusations and incidents led the Board of Supervisors to request an outside investigation by the California Attorney General’s office, a request which was granted on Wednesday. While Attorney General Bonta could not give many details on Wednesday due to the pending investigation of Smith, he did note that the investigation would be looking into unconstitutional conduct.

“The purpose of the probe is to determine whether the sheriff’s office engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct that could merit corrective action.” said Bonta on Wednesday. “I will say that there have been there has been much written about and discussed about how individuals within the jail in Santa Clara County, how they’ve been beaten, the conditions of confinement. There have been deaths and injuries in custody.

“Public safety is built on trust,” added Bonta in a press release. “When communities feel they are treated fairly and equitably by law enforcement, it increases trust and that in turn contributes to increased public safety. However, it is clear that there is a lack of trust in Santa Clara County as a result of deeply concerning allegations around county jail facilities and other misconduct. These concerns have been repeatedly voiced by elected leaders, editorial boards, community members, and more. Bottom line: Public institutions are subject to public oversight. That’s why the California Department of Justice is launching a pattern or practice investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. We will be thorough and impartial in our efforts to ensure that the civil rights of the people of Santa Clara County are respected.”

Sheriff Smith responded on Wednesday, noting that she would be giving the Attorney General’s office all records and  would cooperate fully with the investigation.

“I have great confidence in the Attorney General’s Office and I believe they will provide the expertise for a fair and impartial investigation,” said Sheriff Smith.

Legal experts noted that while it isn’t usual for Attorney General’s to investigate County Sheriff’s Offices to this degree, the fact that the Sheriff might be ousted if found guilty seems to be enough to warrant their involvement.

“No one wants to see a big investigation like this happen,” said Michael Jaworski, a Northern California Attorney, to the Globe on Wednesday. “No one wants to believe that their Sheriff has done this much to hurt the people of the County. But there are multiple accusations now, and she was indicted just last month. A state probe is really needed at this point.”

As of Wednesday, Smith has not yet announced if she will run for Sheriff again this year. If her accusations go to trial and she is found guilty, she may be removed from office.

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12 thoughts on “Attorney General Rob Bonta Launches Civil Rights Investigation Into Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith

  1. If California didn’t have this “Good cause exists for issuance of the license because you or a member of your family is in immediate danger;”
    requirement for concealed carry permits, you wouldn’t need a sheriff’s favoritism. Especially when the state has a completely different definition of “good cause”, than citizens have.

  2. Really, all one needs to know in order to reserve judgment about this Sheriff, Laurie Smith, is that with the likes of super-lefty San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and go-along lefty CA Atty General Rob Bonta lined up against her to try to take her down, there is more reason to believe she is a great sheriff who nevertheless has activated state officeholders and others who want to see her out of office because she is doing a great job than to believe otherwise.

    I don’t live in the Bay Area so I am reserving judgment until I learn more about this sheriff and her service to the county. It sure as heck wouldn’t be the first time that someone has been smeared by the state office-holder usual suspects. But we’ll see….

  3. The communists have a more favorable candidate in the wings if they take down this sheriff…. I smell George Soros money.

    1. Agree with you, CMK. Something fishy is definitely up when the rats come out of their rat-holes to persecute such a person. The rats have a record, after all, which seems to NEVER include doing anything good or needed or sensible. Guess we’ll see…

  4. A long time friend of mine and neighbor worked for the Santa Clara County Sheriffs Office for most of his law enforcement career. He worked with Laurie Smith for some of those years when they were both Deputies and later under her as Sheriff. I had the privilege of meeting Sheriff Smith and she is very professional and has more class than Rob Bonta or anyone that works in the California Justice Department. If she runs for Sheriff again I WILL VOTE FOR HER AGAIN!

  5. Don’t know either the Sherriff or the AG. Just wondering if there will be in investigation soon of Chacon and like minded DA’s not prosecuting crimes that have been crimes since criminals started criming. Doubt it – the AG appears to be a Demorat that can see only Republicans or conservatives in general as boogie-man.

    1. Yep Michael it is clearly a double standard country we live in and the inmates are running the insane asylum!

    2. It seems to me that we now have an entire group of state officeholders who —- at worst —- are dishonest people who are in cahoots to see that only those seen as threats to the Newsom CA agenda are arbitrarily targeted and prosecuted, that our elections always favor Democrats, and — at best — are conveniently not doing their jobs as described and as the People of California expect.
      Remember that in an apparently dirty and not legal game of musical chairs, Atty General Rob Bonta and Secty of State Shirley Weber were appointed by Newsom, not elected, and no election has been scheduled, which election I understand is required within a certain amount of time of the previous officeholder’s absence from the position. Am I missing something?

  6. Rob Bonta while an assemblyman created a foundation in 2017 to support community programs and give scholarships to needy students named the Bonta California Progress Foundation. In one of its first acts of charity in 2018, the assemblyman’s foundation gave $25,000 to Literacy Lab, a nonprofit where his wife Mialisa Bonta at the time was earning a six-figure salary as CEO. Filings with the Fair Political Practices Commission show that after launching his foundation, Bonta solicited donations from interest groups that lobby him at the Capitol — including PG&E, the teachers union, and the maker of Budweiser beer. They pumped $75,000 into the Bonta California Progress Foundation during 2017 and 2018, according to filings with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Maybe an investigation should be launched into AG Rob Bonta’s questionable ethical history?

    1. Wow, Samantha, nice work —- thank you for posting it. This business of officeholders setting up “foundations,” soliciting donations from interest groups, and funneling money from the foundation coffers to the already well-paid spouse’s “non-profit” seems to be all the rage with progressive politicians. I’ve certainly heard about it enough with the creatures in the L.A. political swamp. And elsewhere, of course. Ironic that to the casual observer this slimy practice has the sheen of do-goodism for the politician and the spouse.
      Absolutely, what Rob Bonta is up to here merits an investigation. Will we see it? I won’t hold my breath but I certainly hope and pray to see the day such an investigation begins.

  7. The Billionaire Boys that rule Silicon Valley have private armies of highly-armed “security personnel”. But they want to make sure the common citizens are disarmed. The way they turn around and support the Insane Clown Posse of Soros-puppet DAs should terrify everyone.

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