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But it's not just the press asking questions anymore. In early November, the grand jury opened an investigation to determine if officers obstructed justice on Haidl's behalf. The citizen-led panel working in conjunction with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has a copy of the Downing-Jaramillo audiotape as well as contradictory official reports of the incident. The first witness called in for an explanation was Jaramillo, but he pleaded the 5th Amendment.
Asked if he ordered deputies to bury evidence in the drug bust, Jaramillo told the Weekly, "Nope, nope, nope. I didn't give such an order . . . I never used the word bury."
But he admitted that he did hope to keep the incident—which he called a "chump-change infraction"--out of the press. "I may have said, 'Don't put [the incident] on the log,' but I had just woken up."
Jaramillo denied that his intervention was improper or illegal. "There was nothing unusual about this," he said. "We've done this many times for politicians."
"I'm not so naïve as to try to get something buried," Jaramillo said. He added that everything he discussed that night with Downing was "standard operating procedure."
Jaramillo also adamantly denied that he knew Haidl had been smoking pot. "They did not tell me that," he said.
The assistant sheriff says he welcomes the grand jury investigation. "It isn't a cover-up," he said. "It's a procedural thing about keeping embarrassing things out of the press . . . I don't want good people like the Haidls to be beaten on."
The San Clemente pot case isn't the only time Jaramillo allegedly interceded in a criminal matter for young Haidl. Jaramillo became the subject of controversy during the investigation of the 2002 videotaped gang bang of an unconscious 16-year-old girl in Haidl's Newport Beach house. Prosecutors claim Jaramillo advised the Haidl family not to answer their questions.
"I was not involved," Jaramillo told the Weekly. "I played no role. I played no part. I didn't talk to the boy or anyone else."
Along with Kyle Joseph Nachreiner and Keith James Spann, both also 18, Haidl now faces a March trial for allegedly raping and then sexually molesting the girl with a cigarette, Snapple bottle and a pool stick. Defense lawyers claim the girl consented to the sex before she passed out and the teenagers activated the video camera. All three teenagers face life in prison if convicted.
Downing, Hunt and Haidl did not respond to interview requests.
A transcript of the Oct. 26 telephone call between Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Downing and Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo after deputies found accused rapist Gregory Scott Haidl--son of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl--"smoking pot" during a drug bust:
Downing: Hope I didn't wake you up. I wanted to catch you before you went to sleep, but I just found this out myself. I'm just giving you a heads-up that Don Haidl's son got into a little bit of trouble in our area in San Clemente. He and a couple of his friends were smoking pot behind some industrial buildings. He's been cut loose with no citation or anything. The sergeant is going to notify Chief Haidl right now about the incident.
Jaramillo: Which son?
Jaramillo: Okay. Ummm. He didn't get cited or anything?
Downing: No, we did not.
Downing: Yes, sir.
Jaramillo: The press will be all over this.
Downing: I know.
Jaramillo: So we got to make sure that this gets buried.
Downing: I know. That's why I'm calling you personally. It won't be put on the log or anything, and the chief [Haidl] is going to know. That's our little secret.
Jaramillo: So when he got stopped, where was he?
Downing: He was in an industrial complex in San Clemente. He and a couple of his friends were smoking marijuana. They had less than one ounce and he didn't want to give a lot of information. He told the sergeant and the deputy he lived in Rancho Cucamonga, but they found out he was staying with his mother in San Clemente.
Jaramillo: Uh-huh. Okay. So the long and the short of it is they did not arrest him?
Downing: No, they did not. But that was a decision made by Bill Hunt.
Jaramillo: How long ago was this?
Downing: This was . . . I just got the phone call five minutes ago.
Jaramillo: I'm going to call Don [Haidl] right now.
Downing: Okay. All right, sir.
Source: OC Sheriff's Department
Photo by James Bunoan