His big smile is endearing. His handshake is firm and often buttressed by a friendly pat on the back. His speech is built on sincere pleasantries.
Mike Carona's the kind of politician you want to believe.
But the two-term Orange County sheriff has some terrible secrets, one of which the Weekly revealed in an online story ("Sheriff Con") on Feb. 23.
That article described new evidence suggesting Carona lied about his knowledge of a minor Oct. 26, 2003, drug-bust cover-up. The incident involved Greg Haidl, a son of one of the sheriff's best friends: millionaire Don Haidl, who was at the time an assistant sheriff. An OC deputy sheriff found Haidl, then 18 years old and on bail for allegedly gang raping an unconscious minor, trespassing in a San Clemente industrial park. Nearby, the deputy discovered Haidl's keys, wallet, and a baggie of marijuana and a pipe, but Haidl was not arrested or cited and instead chauffeured home. Later, department officials doctored the official crime log to conceal the event and, after reporters' inquiries, drafted a new crime report, eliminating any reference to Haidl's drugs and backdating the record.
In the aftermath, Carona denied complicity in the cover-up. He let then-Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, his second in command at the department, and several other deputies take full blame. Jaramillo—who had been ordered by the sheriff not to speak publicly about the incident—soon found himself the gagged target of not only reporters, but also the grand jury.
We now know it was a convenient position for the sheriff, who escaped media criticism and grand jury interest. Records prove that Jaramillo called Carona's home telephone at 11 p.m. on Oct. 26, while sheriff's deputies held young Haidl in the back of a police cruiser. Jaramillo talked to his boss for six minutes.
Because numerous emissaries of the sheriff have disputed the Weekly's facts, we've decided to post the evidence online. Here's a record of the Carona-Jaramillo phone call:
To download a .pdf copy of the phone bill, click here.
It wasn't until April 2004—weeks after Carona fired Jaramillo—that the sheriff changed his story and admitted that his subordinate had called him on the night of the drug bust. But Carona's newest version contained another out: the sheriff said he was positive he received the call well after the incident and didn't know any details.
Internal Sheriff's Department records prove otherwise. According to a "Call Detail Information" report, at exactly 23:06:24 (11:06 p.m.)—at least 24 seconds after the sheriff ended his call with Jaramillo—a deputy radioed the dispatcher that he'd been ordered to escort Haidl home. Here's the record:
In the wake of these revelations, Sheriff Carona and his public-relations people aren't happy. They've been working behind the scenes to discredit the story and praying that both local daily newspapers won't inform their readers. Meanwhile, Carona's men have made it clear the Weekly is now on their "enemies list."