San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith surrendered himself to authorities on felony weapons charges Wednesday night. The 24-year-old, who until Thursday was on indefinite leave from the team, turned himself in to the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office after checking out of rehab. He immediately posted $75,000 bail.
Smith is due in court Nov. 12 for three felony charges of possessing illegal firearms, and he could face up to four years behind bars. On Nov. 19, Smith will need to return to court for arraignment on a DUI charge stemming from his September arrest.
While most media outlets have focused on what impact Smith’s absence has had on the 49ers—on Thursday he was activated by the team—NBC Bay Area took a look earlier this month at what appears to be preferential treatment the star player received during a Sheriff’s Office investigation.
The weapons charges against Smith stem from a June 2012 party at his East San Jose hillside mansion. Shots were fired, and Smith was stabbed. Those are the first set of facts. Officers also recovered assault rifles belonging to Smith in a couple ensuing sweeps of the home. Why it took more than one search to locate all of the guns is a question that has still not been answered. Sheriff Laurie Smith told NBC that Aldon Smith—no relation—was viewed as a victim throughout the investigation, which is why, in June of this year, he and other 49ers players were invited to ride in the sheriff’s helicopter and fire weapons at the agency’s shooting range. A source tells San Jose Inside that the Sheriff’s Advisory Board, a nonprofit that supports the Sheriff’s Office, extended the invitation.
Hosting someone who possessed illegal firearms at a shooting range that is operated by the same law enforcement agency that recovered the weapons is unusual, to say the least. Kurtis Stenderup, a public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, told San Jose Inside that Sheriff Smith would have no comment for the time being.
“We’re not ready to publicly comment on the (NBC) report yet,” Stenderup said.
In addition to the shooting range visit, NBC also reported that Aldon Smith got out of jail quicker than usual after his Sept. 20 arrest—a break not afforded to your everyday drunken driver.
By the time he was arrested on suspicion of his second DUI last month, the DA was wrapping up its own investigation on the weapons case. It’s not out of the oridnary for the DA to do its own investigation concurrently with the Sheriff’s Office or San Jose Police Department, but sources tell San Jose Inside that there was some miscommunication on how the case would be handled, and current tensions have never been higher between the DA and Sheriff Smith.
The dispute has been building for some time over other issues, such as control of a county fingerprint program and DA Jeff Rosen’s granting of admin leave to his top administrators. There was apparently some talk within the Sheriff’s Office of investigating Rosen’s granting of admin leave, which was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.
The DA’s office has also declined to comment on the investigation into Aldon Smith—because it is an open investigation—as well as the situation with the Sheriff’ Office.
In a painfully awkward on-camera interview, Sheriff Smith denied that she gave Aldon Smith preferential treatment, repeatedly calling the star football player a victim.
Viewed in a limited context, this designation makes some sense. He was stabbed during the June 2012 party that led to the discovery of illegal weapons that were purchased in Arizona and brought back to California, where assault rifles of the type are banned. Smith reportedly fired off a handgun at his party to disperse a fight between people at the party and a group of gang members.
From that point on, however, his possession of illegal weapons would necessitate a different designation than “victim.”
Now, a year and three months after the party, more pressing questions remain about how his case was handled.
The original version of this article has been updated.—Editor