The first court appearance for five individuals charged in a bribery scheme that sent tens of thousands of dollars into a campaign committee backing the re-election of Santa Clara County, California Sheriff Laurie Smith in exchange for the approval of concealed carry applications took a surprising turn on Monday with one of the defendants entering a guilty plea to the charges in exchange for the promise of a reduction in his sentence.
The San Jose Mercury News reports that Christian West, the former CEO and founder of AS Security, acknowledged forking over $90,000 to a sheriff’s captain with the expectation that a dozen employees would receive their concealed carry licenses in return.
West entered his guilty pleas before Judge Eric Geffon. When he was formally asked about his plea to the first conspiracy count of helping plot the bribery, he answered, “I am guilty of that.” When formally asked about the second conspiracy count to falsify the paperwork for his former security employees, he said, “I admit that.”
So far, neither Smith — who has the sole authority to grant the gun permits in the county — nor Martin Nielsen, an AS Solution manager who allegedly was a central figure in the permit ploy, has been charged. Both Smith and Undersheriff Rick Sung invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when they appeared before a grand jury on Aug. 3, refusing to answer any questions about the scandal, according to transcripts of the two-week-long proceedings, which leaked out last week and officially became public Monday.