Defendants Plead Not Guilty in Santa Clara County CCW Case

Four people accused of conspiring to trade campaign donations for concealed gun permits pleaded not guilty this morning. A trial has been set for Nov. 2.

Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Capt. James Jensen, attorneys Harpaul Nahal and Christopher Schumb and The Gun Co. owner Michael Nichols entered their pleas during a brief hearing today at the Hall of Justice.

A fifth defendant, former CEO of executive protection company AS Solution Christian West, previously pleaded guilty in hopes of reducing his felony charges to misdemeanors.

The case centers on Sheriff Laurie Smith’s office handling of concealed-carry weapons licensing, known as CCW permits, which allow civilians to secretly pack heat.

Though the sheriff herself is not charged with a crime, a civil grand jury indictment implicates some of her associates—namely Capt. Jensen, a member of her command staff, and Schumb, one of her political fundraisers.

Prosecutors accuse Jensen of turning the CCW process into a pay-to-play patronage system by fast-tracking the hard-to-obtain permits for certain people, including Smith’s allies, professional athletes and other prominent figures.

The case began days after Smith’s 2018 re-election with an inquiry from this news organization about a conspicuously generous political contribution: a $45,000 check that someone named Martin Nielsen made out to the Santa Clara County Public Safety Alliance, an independent expenditure committee supporting Smith’s bid for a sixth term.

Nielsen workeds for West at AS Solution, a firm hired by Facebook to protect Sheryl Sandberg, Mark Zuckerberg and other high-ranking executives.

When District Attorney Jeff Rosen heard about the donation two years ago, he launched a months-long undercover probe into whether the political gift was a bribe for CCW permits. Nielsen, who has not been charged in the case, helped prosecutors gather evidence against his boss, Jensen, Schumb, Nahal and Nichols.

According to prosecutors, AS Solution wanted to secure about a dozen CCW permits in response to heightened demand for armed security in the wake of the 2018 shooting at YouTube’s San Bruno campus. Knowing the licenses were so difficult to get in Santa Clara County, where Smith has issued them to just 150-or-so people, Nielsen testified that he set about trying to ingratiate himself with people close to the sheriff.

Nielsen began his quest in spring of 2018 by reaching out to his friend, Nichols, who introduced him to Nahal and Schumb, who in turn told him to contact Jensen.

An indictment unveiled last month claims that Jensen cut a deal with Nielsen, who agreed to the $45,000 donation and a subsequent but not consummated contribution to the Sheriff’s Advisory Board in exchange for gun permits for several AS Solution bodyguards.

Prosecutors say Schumb, as co-treasurer of the political committee, accepted the $45,000 donation from Nielsen about a month before the fall 2018 election. Over the ensuing months, according to the DA, Jensen went on to advise Nielsen and his colleagues at AS Solution to falsify CCW applications by listing other employers to avoid the appearance of too many permits going to one company.

From March of 2019 on, Smith approved several applications to AS Solution employees. It’s unclear how much the sheriff knew about how Jensen and other subordinates handled the applications before they reached her desk for a signature.

During grand jury proceedings in July, Smith and Undersheriff Rick Sung both invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

DA Rosen and his team have repeatedly told reporters to expect more charges against more defendants, though they’ve declined to name names.

The case laid out in more than 800 pages of grand jury transcripts cites little in the way of direct evidence and largely hinges on testimony from Nielsen, whose cooperation with the DA has helped him evade prosecution up to this point.

Attorneys for the defendants tried to argue that Rosen should be disqualified from prosecuting the case because of his political rivalry with Sheriff Smith and personal ties with Schumb. In a hearing last week, however, Judge Eric Geffon denied that motion, saying he failed to see how Rosen’s affiliations presented a conflict.

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.

12 Comments

  1. I think that charges should be brought against those who gave money and received the permits as well they knew exactly what they were doing. In fact I personally have worked for Mr. David Sanders and he is as shady as they come. Taking benefits, bonuses, perks, and raises from his employees to put more money in his pocket. Always going around the office Flonting his new toys and talking about his recent vacations. Even going to the extent of dating checks into the previous year after the books were closed so that he can put money into his pocket hiding money while in the process of getting a divorce so that he don’t have to show it in the books and his ex-wife can’t collect it. Bribing judges and the sheriffs department to give and prosecute an employee to the fullest extent of the law even though he knew that she had a mental breakdown and did not deserve it. He is the lowest of low and deserves to be prosecuted he knew exactly what he was doing he’s always trying to get one up on someone else. Every CEO that got a permit exactly that they were donating money to get that permit under the table and they should be prosecuted for it.

  2. > In fact I personally have worked for Mr. David Sanders and he is as shady as they come.

    Who the hell is David Sanders and what the hell does he have to do with anything?

    The knock at the door is probably a process server with your defamation lawsuit.

  3. @SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE

    I did a Google Search on “David Sanders” and 20 seconds later I was able to see that there is a David Sanders who serves on the Goodwill Boards with Chris Schumb ( you would think an employment lawyer would know that it’s not cool to pay people sub-minimum wage, but I regress). If this David Sanders who is on the Goodwill Board with Chris Schumb, did in fact get a CCW, that would be something that we should all be made aware of given the totality of the current situation.

    A agree with you that “Collette Fields” (if that is her name) could have been a little more discreet in her casting out stones, but you do need to acknowledge that The Ole Boys Club has been treating a lot of people really [email protected] for a long time, and a lot of people have had enough of it.
    There is a lot about this Ring of Bros that needs to be investigated. The California Teacher Association not only paid Chris Schumb for years, but they also allowed Chris Schumb to not extend a defense to teachers who didn’t pay Schumb extra out of pocket. There are a lot of questions about Schumb’s receiving money from the CTA. Was “Teacher Defense” just another way for them to funnel money in and out of campaigns? Is so, that’s really terrible, cause there are teachers that only got the “appearance of a fair defense” and tens of thousand of teachers who pay their hard earned money into the CTA with the belief that there will be a defense if they are ever falsely accused of something.

    I do believe that Chris Schumb would pay off and influence judges. So “Collette’s” assertion that his friend tried to do that, is not at all shocking to me.

    The Ring of Bros needs to be investigated. They need to serve time because they haven’t been playing fair, and that hurts people. People are frustrated. These guys have gotten away with this [email protected] for way too long.

  4. Let’s see… a few super-rich technocrats, justifiably unnerved by the acts of a violent lunatic, up their demands of the working stiffs protecting them, who in turn seek the gun permits they need to meet those demands; the permit-issuing agency directs them through the process, and the working stiffs end-up indicted and charged with felonies.

    Since I can’t fault anyone for wanting to feel safe I can no more criticize the technocrats than I can the working stiffs who turned to the sheriff’s department in pursuit of the CCW permits. But since the technocrats remain immune from jeopardy all my sympathy rests with the working stiffs entrapped by the corrupt practices of Sheriff Laurie Smith. At this point I’m hoping fate lands me a seat on the jury so I can just say no to the conviction of anyone not connected to the sheriff’s department.

  5. All this proves is just stick with the second amendment and dont infringe on my rights.

    No amount of clever words and cat and mouse is going to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the rich. Why stop the middle class from being able to protect themselves. Gun Control doesn’t work, in Baltimore, in Chicago, and it seems in Santa Clara either.

  6. Pleading guilty in the HOPES that the district attorney will reduce your charges to a misdemeanor seems like an odd strategy.

  7. @SJ Kulak

    The media has campaigned for decades to remove from the public consciousness the one type of gun control that does work and has worked for a great many years. It requires neither registration nor special regulations, only that existing laws against brandishing and assault be followed. A firearm that is not displayed to frighten or injure the innocent is a firearm well-controlled. In this it is no different than a household poison that is safely used and stored, or a vehicle that is not driven in a dangerous or irresponsible manner.

    Politicians and law enforcement officials who seek to infringe upon the legal rights of good citizens do so because they shrink from repressing the illegal conduct of bad ones. There is far more political power to be gained by controlling the lawful majority than there is that of the criminal minority, and no single act will earn politicians more control than rendering the majority defenseless to hegemony.

  8. Collette,
    I can see that it would be very possible that Dave Sanders and Chris Schumb would be involved in sketchy stuff with judges. If you have any proof of that, you need to go forward and speak to law enforcement.

  9. Clownfishy

    Oh believe me I tried to speak to law enforcement and attorney’s but they seem to be all afraid to do anything. In Santa Clara County money buys you anything in the judicial system you want, this is just one piece of that pie. I even turned all the evidence I had over to the IRS, I don’t know if they did anything or not.

  10. @Collette,

    Sounds like you did your part in all this. Good for you. It’s not easy to do, but at least you can know you did the right thing. I personally felt very bullied by Chris Schumb regarding a particular situation, and I believe the stuff he did to me wasn’t legal. I too tried to tell people about what he did , but I didn’t get anywhere, and I believe complaining about Chris Schumb just got me more grief and poorer treatment with the people I complained to. Laws and fairness are supposed to be extended to everyone, and are supposed to be there to protect us all. But if you’re in the In Crowd , you don’t have to play by the rules. And if you’re not in their InCrowd, it sure seems like you don’t have many rights. These guys are sure examples of that. Let’s hope that Rosen’s office actually gets these guys convicted, because I believe they’ve done a lot more than they are currently up fo. Keep the faith and Keep on Truckin <3

  11. I personally know Mr. Sanders and he is a great man who has served the community well. The very reason he was provided a CCW was because of threats against him and his family from Collette Marie Pulizzi NOT Collette Fields (listed above slandering Mr. Sanders). She embezzled millions from Mr. Sanders company and was prosecuted and sent to jail Case #14-4951 opened 5/6/2014. Don’t be fooled by this criminal trying to drag a good man down. Let the justice system play out as anyone accused of something is innocent until proven guilty. As I have read Mr. Sanders has only been a witness to a grand jury and NO charges have been filed against him or many other witnesses.

  12. You should be ashamed of yourself Collette and i hope he sues you for libel and has you put back in jail. You are a great liar !

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