Exclusive: New Grand Jury to Review Allegations Against Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office

Veteran defense lawyer believes it’s possible the new panel is targeting the sheriff herself

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The investigation against the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office stemming from the alleged sale of concealed gun permits in exchange for large political campaign donations is expanding.

NBC Bay Area has learned exclusively that a new grand jury has been empaneled to look at quid pro quo allegations against the sheriff’s office. It met on Thursday, and although their proceedings are secret, NBC Bay Area has learned that this grand jury is looking at the very top brass in the department.

Undersheriff Rick Sung’s lawyer, Chuck Smith, has confirmed that Sung is in fact a target of the new grand jury.

“It’s the beginning of a process,” Smith said. “We don’t know if he’ll be indicted. We hope he won’t be. We don’t think he broke any laws or ethical rules. We know he is a target of the grand jury. But there might be several targets.”

Veteran defense lawyer Jaime Leanos said, considering Smith’s comments, he believes it’s possible the new grand jury might also be investigating the sheriff herself.

And if Sung is indicted, Leanos said it could mean bombshells are coming.

“If they do cooperate, they might get a benefit in their own case,” Leanos said. “But that usually requires that they testify or offer evidence against another person. And in this case, it could be the higher up. It could be Laurie Smith.”

The sheriff’s office referred a request for comment to the DA, who will not comment on any grand jury activity.

Three people already have pleaded guilty in the pay-to-play case, and they’re cooperating with the DA. Four others are facing trial in just over a week, including a sheriff’s captain and a prominent South Bay attorney.

“Right now prosecutors have the upper hand because they know and understand the evidence they have,” Leanos said.

Sources told NBC Bay Area’s Damian Trujillo that search warrants were recently served on Sung’s office or home. His attorney said he was told formal proceedings against Sung would begin in early November.

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