EXCLUSIVE: Santa Clara Co. Sheriff's boyfriend testifies in her corruption trial

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ByDan Noyes via KGO logo
Thursday, October 20, 2022
EXCLUSIVE: Santa Clara Co. Sheriff's boyfriend testifies in her trial
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Gary Bechtel said that he, his son, and two other relatives acquired concealed carry permits that were signed by Sheriff Smith.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The man who is dating Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith testified during her corruption trial Wednesday, and his name probably sounds familiar to you.

Gary Bechtel said he retired from his family's global engineering and construction business thirty years ago. Founded in San Francisco, Bechtel has completed many massive projects since its founding in 1898: railroads, power plants, the Hoover Dam, Bay Area Rapid Transit, San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge, the Chunnel between England and France, Las Vegas Airport, etc.

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After leaving the family business, Bechtel testified he founded a NASCAR team in North Carolina, returned to the Bay Area, met Laurie Smith in the early 2000s in Morgan Hill, and they started dating in 2019.

A central issue in Sheriff Smith's trial is whether she provided concealed carry weapon permits in exchange for donations or other favors. Under questioning from San Francisco Assistant District Attorney Gabriel Markoff, Bechtel said he provided $750,000 to the Sheriff's Advisory Board and arranged construction crews to make improvements to the Sheriff's Department shooting range.

Bechtel said he applied for a CCW because "I've had threats against me throughout my career at Bechtel Group from disgruntled employees as well as groups like the SLA." He added he's had a gun shoved in his face in Wyoming, been punched a few times on projects, and got run off the road by an upset craftsman. He said someone threatened him with a pistol in Charlotte, North Carolina, during his NASCAR days. He testified that he doesn't feel the need to carry a pistol often and that he does so two to four times a year.

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Bechtel said he, his son, and two other relatives acquired concealed carry permits that were signed by Sheriff Smith.

Bechtel also testified that he attended a San Jose Sharks hockey game with the sheriff in a luxury suite provided by businessman Harpreet Chadha. Chadha faces a separate criminal indictment of bribery, alleging that he provided the suite to speed the approval of his CCW renewal.

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