The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office can continue to prosecute five people charged with plotting to exchange bribes for concealed gun permits.
Attorneys for two of the accused asked the court to pull DA Jeff Rosen off the case, citing conflicts because of his personal relationship with one of the defendants and claiming his office unlawfully leaked grand jury transcripts to Metro/Jose Inside.
At a hearing this morning in Department 24 of the Hall of Justice, Judge Eric Geffon denied both motions. He also rejected a bid to seal the grand jury transcripts, which have already been widely reported in the local press.
Christopher Schumb—a prominent lawyer, political bundler and one of the five defendants in the case—introduced the conflicts-of-interest-claims last month in a filing that suggested he planned to call Rosen as a character witness.
Schumb’s attorney, Joe Wall, quoted extensively from emails exchanged between Schumb and Rosen to argue that their longtime affiliation undermines his client’s right to a fair trial. Wall also argued that Rosen’s case was motivated by a political rivalry with Sheriff Laurie Smith, whose concealed-carry issuance is central to the prosecution although she hasn’t been charged with a crime.
Schumb’s attorney wanted California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to handle the case instead. DA Rosen, however, has maintained that Becerra already gave him his blessing. An official from AG’s office joined Rosen today to argue against the motion to disqualify.
Earlier this week, Rosen filed a stack of declarations in court denying his closeness to Schumb. The DA also said he refunded $1,500 Schumb donated to his 2019 re-election campaign once he served a search warrant on the political fundraiser.
Though Rosen admitted sending or receiving more than 100 emails with Schumb between 2015 and 2019, the DA said they only had one exchange after the bribery investigation was underway.
Rosen also disputed Wall’s claim of the prosecution being motivated by a clash with the sheriff over access to inmate phone calls. The DA said that disagreement was resolved by the time his office began serving search warrants in the gun permits case.
The attorney for Capt. James Jensen—a Sheriff Smith loyalist accused of fibbing on concealed-carry permits for prominent people and using the licensing to solicit political favors for his boss—filed his own motion to disqualify the DA weeks after Schumb’s.
Jensen’s counsel, Harry Stern, called transcripts leak another example of Rosen’s bias and accused him of conspiring with this news organization to cast his client in a bad light and taint the potential jury pool. Rosen, Assistant District Attorney Jay Boyarsky and prosecutors John Chase and Matt Braker countered the allegations with sworn declarations denying having anything to do with the leak.
Schumb and Jensen are due in court again next week along with their other co-defendants: lawyer Harpaul Nahal and The Gun Co. CEO Michael Nichols.
A fifth defendant, former CEO of executive protection company AS Solution Christian West, pleaded guilty last month in exchange for the possibility of getting his felony charges knocked down to misdemeanors.
Martin Nielsen—a former aide to West whose $45,000 contribution to a pro-Smith political committee in 2018 jumpstarted the case—has so far escaped prosecution.