Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen on Monday announced several additional charges in his investigation into a pay-to-play scheme involving concealed carry licenses issued by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office, including the head of Apple’s security team and two top officials within the sheriff’s office itself.
According to Rosen, Santa Clara County Undersheriff Rick Sung and Captain James Jensen sat on a number of concealed carry permit applications from Apple until the company’s chief security officer, Thomas Moyer, secured a sizeable “gift” to the department.
Sung—second in rank only to Sheriff Laurie Smith—is accused of deliberately holding back four concealed carry weapons (CCW) permits for Apple’s security team until the Cupertino-based corporation agreed to donate 200 iPads worth about $75,000 to the Sheriff’s Office. Sung and Jensen allegedly worked together to solicit the exchange of CCW permits for the tech donation from Apple.
“The donation was pulled back at the 11th hour when our search warrants into this probe began” in August 2019, Rosen said Monday.
In another incident, prosecutors say Sung “extracted” a promise from [local businessman Harpreet] Chadha for $6,000 worth of luxury box suites at a San Jose Sharks game on Valentine’s Day, 2019, before issuing Chadha a hidden gun permit.
“Sheriff Laurie Smith’s family members and some of her biggest supporters held a celebration of her reelection as sheriff in Chadha’s suite,” Rosen said.
In a written statement, Rosen said Sung and Jensen “treated CCW licenses as commodities and found willing buyers.”
So far Sheriff Laurie Smith has not been indicted by the grand jury, though she was called in to testify this summer and ended up invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to almost every question. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Rosen made it clear that his investigation isn’t over, and more indictments could be coming soon.
The DA’s continued announcements about the CCW investigation in recent months have suggested that corruption and bribery in the issuing of weapons permits was entrenched in the sheriff’s office’s highest ranks as Smith was seeking re-election in 2018.
“Call this quid pro quo, call it pay to play, call it give to get—it is illegal,” Rosen told reporters from behind his West Wing office. “It is illegal and it deeply erodes public confidence in the criminal justice system. When high-ranking members of a law enforcement agency are at the heart of a bribery scheme, it tarnishes the badge, the honor, the reputations, and, tragically, the effectiveness of all law enforcement agencies.”
The investigation has already led Rosen to Facebook’s security team.
Earlier this year, officials associated with AS Solution—a company that contract with Facebook to provide executive protection—have pleaded guilty in connection to the case. Namely, ex-AS Solution CEO Christian West and two of his former managers, Martin Nielsen and Jack Stromgren.
There’s a very simple way to get rid of the corruption in Santa Clara and other California counties when it comes to the issuance of concealed carry licenses: quit giving sheriffs broad leeway to approve or deny permits based on a “justifiable need” to carry. That discretion not only empowers abuse in terms of restricting the right to carry by law-abiding citizens, but it fuels the type of graft and corruption that allegedly took place in Santa Clara County.
Moving the state to a “shall issue” standard for concealed carry licenses would remove the opportunity for corrupt officials to demand cash or prizes in exchange for a permit to carry, but it would also lead to hundreds of thousands more Californians exercising their Second Amendment rights, and that’s a bridge too far for anti-gun lawmakers in Sacramento. They’d rather keep a broken system in place that enables bribery because it also deprives the average resident in population centers like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, and San Jose from being able to exercise their right to carry.
Since lawmakers won’t step in, it’ll likely be up to the courts to restore some semblance of sanity to the state’s carry laws. Thankfully, there are a number of challenges underway, including a right-to-carry case out of Hawaii that will have an impact on California’s laws as well. That case, known as Young v. Hawaii, is currently awaiting a decision by an en banc panel of Ninth Circuit judges, and once the opinion has been released, the case is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court (though with the current makeup of SCOTUS justices, the state of Hawaii might be reluctant to take the case any further if their ban on open carry without a license is ruled unconstitutional).