Bribery case against Apple’s Chief Security Officer shows why NYSRPA v. Bruen was correctly decided

Bribery case against Apple’s Chief Security Officer shows why NYSRPA v. Bruen was correctly decided
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Power corrupts, as the old saying by Lord Acton goes, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power, big and small, can and will be abused by government officials. Setting up a corruption-resistant government involves limiting, splintering, containing, and managing power; it’s like designing a tamper-resistant product.

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Growing up in India, I was used to daily corruption because of the way the bureaucracy was imprudently set up. You had to bribe cops to get out of traffic infractions instead of paying a ticket. If your stolen vehicle got recovered by the police, you had to bribe them to get your vehicle back. (A family friend of mine whose car was worth less than the bribe the cops asked for walked away and let the cops keep his stolen car.) Anytime the government was involved, there was corruption: getting a landline, train tickets, getting a birth or a death certificate, a building permit, driver’s license, sewer/water hookup, you name it and there was corruption.

Most Americans have not experienced the sort of bribery that goes on in other countries, except perhaps in one part of public life: the granting of concealed carry permits in states with may-issue permitting regimes, which put complete discretion in the hands of government apparatchiks. In the one low-level government function where there was unchecked discretion, there was corruption, and it was coast-to-coast.

We have covered the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s corruption before, about how ordinary people never got their carry permits approved, but the rich, connected, and powerful managed to get them, sometimes even after leaving the “good cause” field blank. One of the people caught up in this corruption affair is Apple Inc.’s Chief Security Officer, Thomas Moyer.

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The backdrop to this story is that Moyer started the concealed carry permit process for Apple CEO Tim Cook’s bodyguards in August 2017. The permits were slow-walked and verbally approved by the sheriff in June 2018, but it still took two $1,000 donations to the sheriff’s re-election campaign in October 2018 to get them going. The permits were almost issued to Apple in January 2019, but they were taken away by an Undersheriff Sung, who hung on to them and allegedly asked for a “donation” of 200 iPads (worth ~$70,000) for a non-existent training center. Moyer ponied up the iPads in February 2019, and the permits were finally issued.

This is a corrupt tactic most Indian people are familiar with; the bureaucrats will do the work that they’re supposed to do but won’t give you the “deliverable” and leave it hanging in full view to tantalize you. If you pay the bribe, you get whatever it is you were seeking, and if you don’t, they will continue delaying and making your life miserable for a really long time. They have the power and the discretion, so you’re subject to their whims.

Around November 2020, Moyer was indicted by a grand jury for allegedly bribing the Santa Clara Sheriff by supplying the Sheriff’s office (not any officials) with iPads in exchange for getting concealed carry permits for Apple CEO Tim Cook’s bodyguards. The judge overseeing the case dismissed the charges in June 2021.

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In an interesting turn of events, a San Jose-based appeals court of the State of California ruled last week that the lower court judge shouldn’t have dismissed the charges (archived):

Apple Security Chief Must Face Bribery Charge Over Gun Permits

Apple Inc.’s chief security officer must face a criminal charge that he bribed California officials for gun licenses after a state appeals court revived a case that was dismissed two years ago.

[….]

“This appeal raises a question not yet addressed by any California court: whether a public official may be bribed with a promise to donate to the official’s office,” the appeals panel wrote. “We conclude that such a promise may constitute a bribe.”

Speaking strictly from my personal viewpoint having lived under corrupt Indian bureaucracy, I find the case against Thomas Moyer a bit of a tragedy. It’s not Moyer bribing the Sheriff’s office as much as it is the Sheriff’s office extorting Moyer. Most Indian people have been in Thomas Moyer’s shoes; when an unemployable government apparatchik who couldn’t cut it in the private sector has total discretion over your affairs, he can put you in a position where he can extort you so you can continue your business unmolested.

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Setting aside the case against Moyer, in the larger scheme of things, I hope gun owners and Second Amendment advocates appreciate what the Supreme Court has done in NYSRPA v. Bruen. By taking away the discretion held by bureaucrats in an area as fundamental and sensitive as our constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms, Justice Clarence Thomas and the majority have helped stave off the country’s further slide into third-word corruption.

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