Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith Retires as Trial Nears End

Embattled Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith announced her immediate retirement Monday, a move that comes as she awaits a verdict in her civil corruption trial.

Smith, a six-term sheriff, leaves a department where she’s worked nearly 50 years. 

“She wanted to retire on her own terms,” said Rich Robinson, Smith’s political consultant. “The trial was important for her to go through so she could prove her innocence. She didn’t want to have any pressure to leave office because of false charges on corruption.”

In the meantime, the jury in Smith’s civil case is deliberating whether she’s guilty of six counts of willful misconduct and corruption, including accusations of favoritism in her issuing of concealed weapons permits and evading the reporting of gifts.

Robinson said the timing of Smith’s retirement was not an attempt to save her pension.

“She gets her pension either way,” Robinson said. “She’s been in the sheriff’s office for over 49 years. She’s earned that pension. She gets that pension regardless of the outcome of this trial.”

Three attorneys spoke with backed up Robinson’s statement, saying a civil conviction would not endanger Smith’s pension.

Undersheriff Ken Binder becomes the acting sheriff until a new one is elected or appointed by the county’s board of supervisors, the sheriff’s office said.

Back in March, Smith announced she would not run for re-election and planned to retire from her position at the end of her term in January.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo released the following statement regarding Smith’s retirement: “More than a year ago, I publicly called for Sheriff Laurie Smith to resign, and she has belatedly heeded that call. It remains for the County to rebuild a troubled department and to better address many long-neglected issues, particularly regarding jail oversight. The City of San José stands ready to help.”

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