By Jennifer Wadsworth
Santa Clara County’s elected sheriff and the division’s second-in-command invoked their proper in opposition to self-incrimination as an alternative of answering questions from prosecutors earlier than a prison grand jury earlier this month.
Sheriff Laurie Smith and Undersheriff Rick Sung declined to reply after they appeared as witnesses for an inquest right into a political contribution and hid weapons permits issued to members of Fb’s contract safety staff.
To this point, 5 individuals individuals have been indicted within the alleged pay-to-play scheme on fees starting from falsification of paperwork to conspiracy to bribe a public official. Neither Smith nor Sung stand accused of against the law.
On Aug. 3, from a witness stand on the outdated Santa Clara County Superior Courthouse, Sheriff Smith nearly instantly started taking the Fifth.
When Deputy District Legal professional John Chase requested her what she does for a residing, Smith advised him she’s labored for the Sheriff’s Workplace for 47 years. Earlier than he might even get to asking in regards to the gun permits, referred to as CCWs, she invoked her constitutional proper over an innocuous request to summarize her regulation enforcement profession.
“Sir, under Article 1 of the California Constitution, Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution—excuse me,” she mentioned, slicing herself off abruptly.
Although absent from the transcript, witnesses to the continuing say that’s when Smith, visibly overcome with emotion, paused to gather herself and wipe tears from her eyes.
“That’s fine,” Chase assured, permitting her a second to regain composure. “Take your time, sheriff. There is no rush here. We are not in a rush.”
Smith picked up the place she left off
“… and Evidence Code 940,” she continued. “I assert my privilege against self-incrimination. Therefore, I’m declining to answer your questions.”
Chase pressed on.
“OK,” he mentioned. “Sheriff, what I’m going to do is just ask a few questions just to make sure that you are—to see if you are going to answer questions in any area.”
“You don’t have to go through the whole—we understand you will be invoking that particular privilege if you invoke,” Chase defined, “and you don’t have to go through the whole thing if you don’t want. It will probably be about eight questions total.”
He requested if he might title some individuals to seek out out what she knew of them, whether or not they’re private acquaintances and whether or not they supported her 2018 re-election.
“No, sir,” she replied. “I will assert my privilege.”
Would she reply questions on Undersheriff Rick Sung? Or Capt. James Jensen, who’s one in all 5 individuals charged within the case?
“No, sir. Same privilege.”
What about basic questions on the Sheriff’s Advisory Board, the way it works, the way you develop into a member and so forth?
“No, sir. Again, I will be asserting my privilege.”
Questions on her public data officers and their function in processing purposes for concealed-carry weapons licensing?
Questions on how she dealt with these gun permits throughout her tenure as sheriff?
“No, sir. Again, I will assert my privilege.”
What of the Santa Clara County public Security Alliance, the impartial expenditure committee that accepted a $45,000 test from a contributor who allegedly organized a plan to safe a number of CCWs?
“No, sir. Again, asserting my privilege.”
Chase soldiered on.
“Just have possibly another one,” he mentioned, turning to have a look at papers on a desk earlier than him. “I just want to check my notes.”
Would she reply questions on Martin Nielsen, the man who wrote that $45,000 test on behalf of AS Answer, the chief safety agency he labored for? What about his colleagues assigned to Fb’s government safety element: Rachel Paskvan, Jonathan Taunton and Leonard Lawrence?”
“Thank you,” Chase replied, “and you are excused.”
Sung took the identical stand and invoked the identical privilege a day later. This time, Deputy DA Matt Braker lobbed the questions and Sung took the Fifth proper out of the gate.
“Good morning, Undersheriff Sung,” Braker started. “Can you tell us how long you have worked at the Sheriff’s Office?”
“Based upon the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 15 of the California Constitution, and California Evidence Code 940, I respectfully decline to answer,” Undersheriff Sung replied.
“Mr. Sung, are you going to invoke that right and that privilege to all questions that are asked of you today regarding the matters this grand jury is investigating?” Braker requested.
Sung answered affirmatively.
“Just to be clear, I want to ask you [about a] couple areas to be more specific,” Braker continued. “If I were to ask you questions about your involvement in the campaign for Laurie Smith’s re-election in 2018, would you invoke your Fifth Amendment right to not answer those questions?”
“If I have been to ask questions relating to your involvement in CCW issuances within the years 2018 [and] 2019 would you invoke the privilege as nicely? “
Once more, sure.
“With that,” Braker concluded, “I will not ask any further questions.”
This story first appeared at sanjoseinside.com.