District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s conspiracy case against political supporters of Sheriff Laurie Smith has not gone smoothly.
An appeals court in May removed the DA’s office from prosecuting one case, and then the state Supreme Court declined to hear the DA’s appeal. In August, Attorney General Rob Bonta dropped charges against the defendant, a prominent San Jose attorney.
A parallel case against Apple security chief Thomas Moyer collapsed in May when Judge Eric Geffon deemed the charges unsupported by evidence.
Three executive protection specialists caught redhanded in making illegal campaign contributions and falsifying documents got off light in exchange for guilty pleas and cooperation with Rosen’s office.
Despite the failed prosecutions of attorney Christopher Schumb and Apple’s Moyer, the District Attorney continues to press ahead with cases against Undersheriff Rick Sung, Sheriff’s Captain James Jensen and three other participants in an alleged conspiracy to connect gun permits for Facebook bodyguards to a campaign contribution and offers of equipment donations.
Jensen is accused of falsifying documents, which may be clear cut. But the conspiracy and bribery allegations are weaker and depend on proving a quid pro quo rather than the types of conversations that occur all the time between donors with access to public officials.
And since a judge and the Attorney General have determined there’s insufficient evidence, why are other defendants being prosecuted for the same allegations?
It’s no secret that Rosen would like to see the sheriff out of office, but that’s a result more appropriately executed by voters or a retirement announcement, since an election is right around the corner.
The DA is also facing a contested election. This is not a good backdrop for impartial justice, and prosecutions should not be tainted by electoral politics or interagency feuds. The public wants safe communities, not law enforcement officials spending their time—and public resources—fighting one another.
The tangled knot of Santa Clara County political alliances is further complicated by Supervisor Cindy Chavez’s endorsement of Rosen’s reelection campaign. Rosen touting an endorsement from the architect of the county’s political favor machine (who also happens to have been a close ally of a politician who Rosen’s office prosecuted for felony political corruption) raises other issues. Why is Rosen forging a political alliance with Chavez, now a San Jose mayoral candidate and one of the sheriff’s key allies and enablers? Is there a mayoral endorsement quid pro quo?
District Attorney Rosen should either drop the bribery and conspiracy charges—or hand them off to the Attorney General. When it comes to matters like this, the public should not have to read between the lines and wonder whether justice is being served.