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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Prosecutors Ask for 9 Years in Sheriff Corruption Case

Prosecutors to Ask for 9 Years in Carona Corruption Case
KTLA News - April 10, 2009

SANTA ANA, CA - Prosecutors plan to ask that former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona be sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $125,000 when he is sentenced on April 27, according to documents released Friday. The federal probation office has asked for the lesser sentence of six years and six months in prison, along with a $65,000 fine. In his sentencing memo, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagal said that nine years "is the minimum sentence necessary to provide appropriate general and specific deterence, promote respect for the law, to provide just punishment and to reflect the seriousness of the defendant's crimes." Defense attorneys for Carona could not be reached for comment, but they are expected to ask that Judge Andrew Guilford give Carona probation. Carona, his wife Deborah, and his former mistress, attorney Debra Hoffman, were accused of conspiring to appoint millionaire businessman Don Haidl to assistant sheriff in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts. Haidl had no prior law enforcement background. Part of Sagal's argument for harsher punishment for Carona was based on the fact that Carona gave Haidl full police powers, including police badges and identification cards. Sagel said Carona gave reserve badges and identification cards to family members, friends and business associates as well. Carona was acquitted of conspiracy, mail fraud by depriving the public of the right to honest services and obstruction of justice/witness tampering.

Carona's Jan. 16 conviction on a separate count of witness tampering stemmed from a secretly recorded conversation on Aug. 13, 2007, between the former sheriff and Don Haidl, a millionaire businessman Carona named as an assistant sheriff. Haidl testified that he bribed Carona with monthly payments and provided gifts, trip accommodations and boat and plane trips. Prosecutors argued that Carona, on the tape, urged Haidl -- albeit in a type of code -- to lie to a grand jury looking into corruption about their relationship. The defense has argued that, among other things, the government used unethical means to get Carona to "open up and talk" at the August meeting, that Carona never expressly asked Haidl to lie to the grand jury or anyone else and because Haidl lacks credibility as a witness because he was only trying to reduce his sentence on a tax charge to which he pleaded guilty. After Carona was acquitted of the five counts, prosecutors moved to dismiss the case against the women and Guilford granted the request on Jan. 29. Carona is free on a $20,000 appearance bond. Defense attorney Brian Sun said previously he was notified by the probation department that prosecutors wanted a sentencing recommendation that took into account conduct for which Carona was acquitted. In his 51-page memo, Sagel noted that Carona's attorneys will ask for a "non-custodial" sentenced based on several factors, including susceptibility to abuse in prison, but Sagel said Carona will not be the first law enforcement officer or public officials in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The system can accommodate such inmates and Carona would probably be housed at a low-security camp facility, Sagel wrote. "The defendant now stands before this court as a convicted felony who victimized many by his selfish and criminal acts," Sagel wrote. "This court, in turn, should not `coddle' defendant, but should punish him appropriately." Carona was sheriff from January 1999 through January 2008. He resigned after being indicted to concentrate on his defense.

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