SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith waived her right to a speedy trial Friday during a virtual court hearing on allegations of misconduct and corruption, an indication she plans to fight the charges.
Back in December, a civil grand jury filed a declaration in Superior Court accusing embattled Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith of the charges she currently is facing.
Sheriff Smith has been under investigation for alleged mismanagement of the county jail and charges of bribery and corruption.
The filing accused Smith of seven corruption-related charges including political favors, accepting unlawful gifts, perjury and failing to cooperate with investigating authorities. The accusations were based on the testimony of 65 witnesses.
Legal analyst Michele Jagen told KPIX the Friday hearing involved a unique procedure because of the blending of civil trial elements with the criminal.
“She had an option today to either make a plea — deny or admit the accusation; notice the difference, it isn’t guilty or not guilty — or she challenges the accusation. And they’re choosing to challenge it,” explained Jagen. “But because of the procedure required, she has to waive her speedy trial rights, which is a criminal trial right.”
Jagen also said that Smith’s defense team is challenging the sufficiency of the accusation before Smith will have to admit or deny the accusations she is charged with. According to Jagen, at the next hearing, the judge will rule whether accusation sufficient or not.
If the accusation is ruled to be sufficient, Smith will enter a plea admitting to or denying the accusations. If Smith denies the accusations, the case is set for trial by jury.
If Smith is convicted, court shall order her immediate removal from office, but she will still have right to appeal like any other defendant, Jagen explained.
On Friday, the judge also gave Smith and her lawyers more time to look over 30 volumes of the grand jury transcripts.
The embattled sheriff is up for reelection this year and already has at least three high-profile candidates who have announced they’re running against her in June.
Several Santa Clara County leaders and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo have previously called on Smith to resign.
The next status hearing in Smith’s case is set for March 15th.