Appeals Court Halts Santa Clara Co. Concealed Gun Permit Trial

An appellate court has blocked the Nov. 2 trial of four people accused of conspiring to exchange bribes for concealed gun permits from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

The stay issued this morning by California’s 6th District Court of Appeal demands more information about District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s ties to one of the defendants—attorney Christopher Schumb—and whether that presents a conflict of interest.

Rosen and other parties to the case have until Nov. 6 to submit arguments about whether Rosen should recuse himself from prosecuting Schumb and co-defendants, including sheriff’s Capt. James Jensen, lawyer Harpaul Nahal and gun maker Mike Nichols.

Schumb’s attorney, Joe Wall, argued for the DA’s recusal a couple months ago, saying Rosen’s political and personal ties to his client undermined the prospect of a fair trial. But Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Eric Geffon rejected the argument.

On Oct. 17, Wall implored the appeals court to intervene.

The stay asks parties to the case to address the following questions.

  • Where the elect district attorney, determined by the trial court to be a friend of the defendant, is personally involved in the prosecution of the defendant and others for crimes related to alleged public corruption involving another elected official of the same county, is it reasonably possible that the District Attorney’s Office may not exercise its discretionary function in an evenhanded manner, which conflict likely affects the fairness of the prosecution?
  • What is the relevance, if any, to the analysis under Penal Code Section 1424 of the elected district attorney being called as a percipient witness at trial in this matter? Does the analysis change if the district attorney is called only as a character witness?
  • Does the District Attorney’s Office have a formal recusal policy? What is the relevance, if any, to the analysis under Penal Code Section 1424 of the existence of and adherence to such a policy?
  • Should the trial court have conducted an evidentiary hearing on the extent of the personal involvement of the elected district attorney in the investigation or prosecution of this matter?

Legal experts who spoke to San Jose Inside today said such stays are rare.

“This is not a motion that I brought lightly,” Wall said in a brief phone call today. “It was something that I thought was warranted.”

Wall said he was “disappointed” when Judge Geffon rejected his motion for recusal.

“Bottom line is I believe in this motion,” Wall told San Jose Inside. “From the outset, we have believed that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has a significant, inescapable conflict in prosecuting this case and we are pleased that the 6th District is reviewing this very important issue.”

A spokesman for the DA referred questions about the stay to the California Attorney General’s Office, which sent representatives to court last month to affirm Rosen’s decision to handle the case. AG officials said they generally refrain from commenting on criminal cases pending in the courts of appeal.

But they emailed a copy of the response the AG filed last month in response to Wall’s initial petition for recusal. The motion argues that Wall failed to identify an actual conflict that would undermine the integrity of the trial.

In concluding the 17-page response filed Sept. 10, Becerra wrote that Schumb’s counsel failed “to satisfy his burden of presenting admissible evidence of any conflict, let alone a conflict so grave as to render it unlikely he will not receive fair treatment during all portions of the criminal proceedings.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

4 Comments

  1. Am I just effing stupid?

    For decades, only those with ties to the upper echelons of County government or those mysterious members of the Sheriff’s Advisory Board(which raises cash for the Sheriff’s re-election campaign)have received CCW in Santa Clara.

    We are focusing on these few individuals for bribery, when the person who has been raking in the cash at the top is unmentioned?

    Wow, this is what justice looks like in a Banana Republic.

  2. In keeping with this county’s respect for the judicial process, I believe charges should be dropped and the case re-investigated by the sheriff’s office in order to take advantage of Sheriff Laurie Smith’s keen understanding of the crimes alleged. I suggest Captain Jensen’s role in the investigation be limited to advisor.

  3. PHU: Check it out, something we both completely agree on….Corruption of the DA & Sheriff…..that has gone on for quite some time. It’s absolutely stunning to me how this can go on for so long (as in years and years) here in the “enlightened Silicon Valley”….

  4. The bribery that was discovered in 2012 / 2013, involved judge in department 19 sabotaging cases to effect rulings in department 3. ) where property was being seized through probate court. The department19 judge was found to be getting kickbacks from theses of the property.

    The county executives office sent out sheriff deputies to stalk, harass and threaten witnesses and falsified police reports were reviewed and endorsed with signature of Captain Ricardo Urena, who was head of court security who reported to presiding judge Brian Walsh.

    Judge Brian Walsh and County Executive Jeff Smith were at the same time coordinating civil grand jury proceedings on Public Guardian’s office and created fake court cases shoving the bribery out of the picture.

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