In his Nov. 2, 2000, letter to Carona, Cedillos wrote that Strauss had retracted "each and every malicious allegation"; Cedillos acknowledged that he'd been asked (he didn't say by whom) to resign as a reserve deputy over the affair.

But according to county counsel records labeled "confidential," Carona didn't believe Cedillos' denials, wanted him fired from the reserves and had asked for a secret legal opinion.

"You received allegations from a husband and wife in San Diego (the informants) that [Cedillos] was having an affair with their daughter, and seemed obsessed with her," wrote Assistant County Counsel James F. Meade on April 13, 2001. "They indicate that [Cedillos] had virtually stalked their daughter."

Meade's opinion noted that Carona felt that Cedillos had not used department resources to spy on the woman, but that the sheriff "believes that [Cedillos'] attorney 'frightened off' the [Strausses]."

Meade recommended to Carona that he let Cedillos remain in the reserves, in part because Strauss had recanted his original letter and a jury might not appreciate the flip-flop if Cedillos filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit. The sheriff kept him.

Cedillos told me he has "irrefutable proof" the accusations are "blatantly false." For example, he provided an Oct. 8, 2000, letter signed by Kathleen Strauss, who disputed "my parents' hysteria surrounding this matter." She also signed a two-page declaration supporting Cedillos' version of events.

But a year after that letter, Kathleen faxed Carona, telling him that Cedillos had pressured her to discredit her father and claiming that Cedillos had sent "lewd nude photos of me" to numerous people listed on her computer's e-mail address folder.

She and her parents "simply want to be left alone," she wrote. "I am still quite afraid."

Contacted for this article, Strauss and his wife, Anita, said that although they and their daughter had contacted the San Diego Police Department, no charges were ever filed. "We saw we'd be in a fight with a skunk," Strauss said.

Cedillos sees this whole affair as a conspiracy: "Carona's people have been threatening me with this information for almost a decade, and quite frankly, I am fed up with it."

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