The threat frightened several of the women who'd complained; it helped keep other women publicly silent. But the intimidation tactics failed on the one person who could easily unravel the sheriff's duplicity: Jaramillo, Carona's longtime confidant who was fired in March 2004. The two men, who once called each other "brother for life," have become bitter enemies.
It was Jaramillo's voice mail that Carona inadvertently redialed during his May 2001 encounter with the woman in the vehicle. That record was preserved and is now in the hands of the Weekly and the state attorney general's office. The lengthy audio recording sounds like a scene in a 1970s porn flick. Read it, and as you do, supply your own funky bass line:
It's dark out, and Orange County's sheriff is giddy inside a white Honda SUV. He gives his female companion a breath mint, then leans over and kisses her. When he's done, Carona says, "You're so fucking cute."
There are sounds of renewed physical contact. Moments earlier, it was the lawman who moaned and groaned. Now it's the woman who is expressing pleasure. She says nothing but giggles over and over. Carona whispers something inaudible. The woman giggles again.
She later recalls that the sheriff had been fondling her.
Unaware, Carona's wife and young son stand 50 feet away. Before exiting the SUV to join his family and attend an official function, the sheriff savors the moment with a sigh. He asks if there's lipstick smeared on his face; emboldened, he says he has half a mind not to wipe off the lipstick.
And then he tells his employee, "I mean, I gotta tell you, I . . . love . . .you!"