A fifth defendant has been named in a connection to an alleged pay-to-play scheme involving several associates of Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.
Christian West—former CEO of executive protection firm AS Solution—stands accused of two felony counts for conspiring to offer bribes in exchange for concealed gun permits and for falsifying applications to obtain them.
The indictment naming West reiterates a narrative spelled out in the prior complaint, which accused Capt. James Jensen, attorneys Harpaul Nahal and Christopher Schumb and The Gun Co. CEO Michael Nichols of trying to buy access to the coveted permits.
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen unveiled the initial charging documents earlier this month, culminating two weeks of criminal grand jury proceedings and a year-and-a-half probe triggered by an inquiry from this news organization.
John Chase, the prosecutor who led the investigation, declined to offer more details about the decision to charge West, saying more information may come to light when the defendants are formally charged in court.
“I don’t want to speculate about what’s going to happen then,” he said in a brief phone call today, “but I think some questions about the complaint and questions about the indictment and so forth will become clear at that time.”
The grand jury transcripts should be made public by then, too—unless the court seals them. But Chase said the DA doesn’t plan to prevent their disclosure.
Defendants just received their copies of the transcripts today, he added. Attempts to reach the accused have been unsuccessful. Except, that is, for a statement from Jensen’s attorney, who said after the first indictment that his client is devastate, had nothing to gain from accepting bribes and had no power to issue the permits anyway.
As previously reported, West employed Martin Nielsen, a middle manager at AS Solution who gave $45,000 to an independent expenditure committee, for which Schumb served as assistant treasurer, that supported Sheriff Smith’s 2018 re-election.
Just days after the sheriff won a sixth term, San Jose Inside asked the DA about the contribution, which kicked off an undercover investigation into suspected bribery.
Though Smith is the only person in the county with the authority to grant hidden-gun permits, she has not been accused of a crime in connection to the case.
Notably, neither has Nielsen.
Sources familiar with the case say that’s because he cooperated with authorities and helped collect evidence against the five defendants.
According to a bio on the AS Solution website, West found his way to the executive protection industry in the late 1980s, when he worked for Danish musicians who relocated to Hollywood. The bio claims that his first bodyguard company grew into Scandinavia’s largest before being acquired by Securitas.
West founded AS Solution in 2003 and moved it six years later to the United States, where the company went on to work with Silicon Valley A-listers and C-suite executives.
At some point in the past several months, AS Solution removed West's name and image from a listing of the company’s management team.
West, 51, is set to be arraigned at 9am Aug. 31 in Department 24 of the Hall of Justice along with the other four defendants in the case.
Jensen is under the most pressure, facing up to 11 years in prison if convicted, according to statutory penalties for the alleged crimes. The others are looking at three to four years.