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Former Santa Clara County sheriff guilty on all counts in civil corruption trial

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Former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith has been found guilty on all counts in a civil corruption case, prosecutors said Thursday.

A jury handed down guilty verdicts on six counts of committing willful or corrupt misconduct in office, the San Francisco district attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, confirmed.

The unusual trial was a civil proceeding that only sought to remove Smith from her position. Although Smith tried to preempt the verdict by abruptly stepping down from office Monday and requesting to dismiss the case, a judge ordered it to continue, the Mercury News reported.

Smith’s attorney, Allen Ruby, did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

The Times could not reach a courtroom clerk for confirmation of further details on Thursday’s proceedings, but the Mercury News reported that Smith will return to court Nov. 16.

The longtime San Jose-area sheriff announced her sudden retirement Monday. She had struggled to recover from multiple scandals, including allegations of corruption and bribery among her command staff and abuse in the county jails — leading to a vote of no confidence from the county’s Board of Supervisors last year.

Smith, who in 1998 became the first woman to be elected a county sheriff in California, had spent several weeks fighting the corruption case in civil court.

Prosecutors outlined a bribery scheme that traded concealed-carry permits for political donations.

Smith has not been directly linked in the criminal cases that have ensnared her former undersheriff and others.

She had previously announced plans to retire at the end of her term in January, choosing to not seek reelection, according to the Mercury News. Santa Clara County voters will choose a new sheriff in next week’s election.

Smith announced her retirement effective Monday, according to a statement from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Undersheriff Ken Binder will step into the role of acting sheriff “until a new top cop is elected or appointed by the Board of Supervisors,” the statement said.

The California attorney general’s office this year announced a civil rights investigation into the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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