Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s entire office is now disqualified from prosecuting a key defendant in the alleged conspiracy to obtain coveted concealed firearms permits.
The bombshell comes after Joe Wall, the attorney for key defendant Christopher Schumb, raised flags that his client’s alleged relationship with Rosen as a “political consultant, lawyer, fundraiser, and friend" created “a fatal conflict that cannot be ignored.” Schumb also had a longtime close relationship with Chief Assistant DA Jay Boyarsky.
Schumb’s attorney argued that being chums with top prosecutors created a conflict of interest, meaning he would not likely receive a fair trial. The DA’s Office’s own Policy and Procedure Manual specifically bars handling any case of a friend or relative.
According to a Court of Appeals opinion filed on Friday, that relationship included providing help in campaign fundraising, legal advice, fixing a vintage watch or finding tickets to a sold out One Direction concert.
The upcoming criminal trial involves charges that members of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department engaged in schemes to issue hard-to-obtain concealed firearms permits to local security company AS Solution in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in donations to help reelect Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith in 2018—what some have deemed an “open secret” for approval.
Interest in acquiring CCW permits by executive protection officials stemmed from the 2018 shooting on YouTube’s Mountain View campus. Those permits are notoriously hard to come by in Santa Clara County—where Sheriff Smith alone has the power to grant them.
Schumb, a prominent local attorney and political fundraiser, faces two felony charges in the upcoming trial: conspiring to bribe an executive officer and bribing an executive officer.
Schumb is accused of receiving a $45,000 political contribution from executive bodyguard Martin Nielsen to an independent expenditure committee that supported Sheriff Laurie Smith’s reelection, the Santa Clara County Public Safety Alliance, in October 2018. Early in 2019, Schumb called Sheriff’s Captain James Jensen on Nielson’s behalf, and he received a gun permit less than a month later.
Nielsen, who assisted the district attorney’s investigation, pled guilty in 2020 to three misdemeanor charges.
The motion to disqualify the DA’s Office was originally filed in August 2020. However, then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra opposed the motion, citing, in part, Rosen’s claims that any political support received from Schumb was minuscule in his campaigning efforts, which were allegedly returned after learning of the conspiracy in July 2019.
Schumb intends to call Rosen and Boyarsky as both fact and character witnesses at trial.
Other alleged co-conspirators include private attorney Harpaul Nahal, local gun parts manufacturer Michael Nichols and Sheriff’s Department Capt. James Jensen. The DAs Office will still prosecute Jensen’s case, after his counsel's petitions for disqualification were denied by the Court of Appeals Friday.
Schumb will now likely face prosecutors appointed by State Attorney General Rob Bonta, who was appointed in April by Gov. Gavin Newsom—a position Rosen unsuccessfully sought last month.