Apple security boss faces iPads-for-gun-permits bribery charge... again

'We will continue fighting this case' global chief's lawyer tells us

An appeals court has reversed a 2021 decision to drop a bribery charge against Apple's head of global security, who is accused of donating iPads worth up to $80,000 to a sheriff's office in exchange for giving his Cupertino agents concealed carry weapon licenses.

The appeals judges said that even a "promise" to donate the tablets in exchange for giving Apple's security guards concealed carry weapons paperwork could potentially be considered a bribe. The sheriff's office was never given the tablets.

The charge against security chief Thomas Moyer was brought in 2020 in California, against the backdrop of a wider alleged pay-to-play scheme involving gun permits and the sheriff's office.

Former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith was accused of providing concealed carry weapons permits in exchange for political donations or other favors in that wider case. Smith was found guilty on six civil counts of corruption and willful misconduct in November last year by the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.

According to prosecutors in the original indictment [PDF] filed against Moyer, Undersheriff Rick Sung, and Captain James Jensen, Sung and Jensen are alleged to have refused to issue four concealed-carry weapon (CCW) licenses to Apple security unless they got something in return. The allegation was that Moyer promised to donate 200 iPads, worth between $40,000 and $80,000, to the sheriff's office "in exchange" for the permits. Moyer has always maintained there was no connection between the iPad donation offer and the licenses. The donation was later scrapped.

Sung and Jensen have been charged with receiving or asking for bribes with trial dates set for this year.

The case against the Apple security boss, however, was dismissed by a trial court in 2021.

But late last week, justices at California's sixth district court of appeal reversed the order [PDF] and reinstated the bribery count.

Friday's opinion, written by Justice Daniel Bromberg, joined by Justices Adrienne Grover and Cynthia Lie, claimed that the evidence presented to the grand jury was "sufficient to raise a reasonable suspicion of such bribery."

Threats against Tim Cook

The judges noted that for Apple to seek CCW licenses was an ostensibly reasonable move, as, in 2016 and early 2017, Moyer and his security team began receiving "more serious threats" against Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, and became "concerned about its ability to respond to these threats." As a consequence, the opinion adds, in early 2017, Apple "decided its executive protection team should be armed" and began taking steps to obtain concealed carry weapon (CCW) licenses for staff on the team, many of whom were based in Santa Clara County.

The justices said the sheriff's office was never given the tablets, or so the grand jury was told, because Moyer recommended "tabling the donation" in August 2019, when the media reported that the sheriff's office had received a subpoena concerning its issuing of CCW licenses.

The judges wrote: "There was no mention in the article about Apple or the promised iPad donation, and in February, when asked by the compliance attorney about matters pending before the sheriff's office, Moyer had not disclosed Apple's CCW applications."

The opinion added that "the grand jury could have found further evidence of consciousness of guilt in the speed with which Moyer reacted upon learning that the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office was under investigation for its treatment of CCW licenses."

The judges' opinion stated that prosecutors had presented evidence to the grand jury that "Moyer was less than candid about the iPad donation."

The appeal judges did note that the 2021 trial court earlier found that evidence presented to the grand jury had not been sufficient to establish that Moyer had a "corrupt intent in promising the iPad donation."

In reaching this conclusion, the court said at the time that, by the time of the February 8, 2019 meeting in which Moyer allegedly promised the iPad donation, "Moyer already had been repeatedly informed that Apple's CCW licenses would be issued." The appeals court also noted that the trial court "observed that Moyer submitted the request to make the iPad donation through proper channels at Apple."

Moyer's counsel, trial and appellate lawyer Ed Swanson, told The Reg: "We strongly believe the Court of Appeal reached the wrong conclusion. Tom Moyer did not commit a crime, and we will continue fighting this case until he is exonerated." ®

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