Santa Clara Sheriff Investigation

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Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department

Avinash Pandit, Online EIC

In a statement on August 16, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo of Santa Clara County called for the resignation of Sheriff Laurie Smith. Mayor Liccardo, a former criminal prosecutor, is the first elected official to do so. Smith has been accused of multiple violations and has been the subject of a significant criminal investigation. 

 

One of the allegations against Sheriff Smith included the repeated beatings of jail inmates, which resulted in many deaths. She has also failed to prevent the falsification of reports and investigations related to those incidents.

One of the allegations against Sheriff Smith included the repeated beatings of jail inmates, which resulted in many deaths. She has also failed to prevent the falsification of reports and investigations related to those incidents.”

 

Mayor Liccardo further elaborated his case for her resignation in a written statement released to the press. In his statement, he states that Smith’s repeated mismanagement of the jail has violated its inmates’ most basic civil rights. He mentioned the death of Michael Tyree in 2015, severe head injuries to Andrew Hogan in 2018 and Martin Nunez in 2019, and a seven-minute beating of a man by 31 other inmates in 2020. Licciardo compared Sheriff Smith’s treatment of some inmates to a “dystopian tenure in Hunger Games” and noted that Smith required officers from other city departments to remove their body cameras when entering the County Jail. 

 

Mayor Liccardo also claims that it is not just the treatment of inmates that is a problem, but that Sheriff Smith’s actions have had detrimental monetary implications. A $450 million of taxpayer dollars were granted to Smith and the Santa Clara County Police to improve jail operations and conditions, without much to show for it. Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars were also paid to victims of police brutality for civil rights violations by deputies who were under Smith’s watch. 

 

The allegations continue. The county is currently undergoing a criminal bribery investigation on Smith, in which two of her top officials have been indicted. Also allegedly a part of the bribing scheme, Smith promoted the head of her deputies’ union to captain after the union contributed $300,000 to her reelection campaign.

 

Smith addressed Mayor Liccardo’s statements in a 45-minute news conference the next day. Smith handed over much of the conference to Attorney Paula Canny, who represented the family of Michael Tyree in 2015. Canny praised Smith’s willingness to work with Tyree’s family and how quickly the deputies accused of murdering him were arrested.