Former Orange Co. Sheriff Sentenced in Witness Tampering Case

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Santa Ana, CA—The former head of the nation’s fifth-largest sheriff’s department has been sentenced following a courtroom drama that has played out since October 2007.

Michael Carona, who was indicted on public corruption charges stemming from alleged money-laundering, conspiracy, mail fraud and witness tampering, received 5 ½ years in prison on only one count of witness tampering. A jury dropped the remainder of the charges in January, finding Carona guilty of only a single count.

Prosecutors charged that Carona had asked multimillionaire businessman Don Haidl to launder campaign contributions he had received, totaling at least $30,000. He then gave Haidl a post in the sheriff’s department, as well as authority over a reserve deputy program. This program allowed Haidl to assign law enforcement badges to his friends and family. Haidl eventually became a government informant, and was later named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the grand jury indictment against Carona.

Haidl wore a wire in order to secretly record conversations with Carona, who peppered his speech with profanity, racial slurs, sexual comments and references to his longtime mistress.

The mistress, along with Carona’s wife, was also indicted, although charges against both were later dropped.

The former sheriff’s trial, which lasted for 10 weeks, featured over five dozen witnesses and captured the attention of the Orange County public. Yet the jury rejected the government’s main thrust of accusations. A former assistant sheriff who had also been Carona’s one-time campaign manager, and who had been named as a co-conspirator along with Haidl, reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors and was one of the prosecution’s witnesses during the trial.

During a recent hearing to determine sentencing, Carona thanked U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford for giving him the opportunity to fight against the charges which had been brought against him. Guilford then sentenced Carona to 5 ½ years, one year less than the 6 ½ year sentence that had previously been recommended by probation officials.

The former sheriff will also serve two years of probation after his release, in addition to paying a fine of $125,000.

Carona’s attorneys said that they would appeal.

 

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