6. FRED LISANTI. The onetime high-ranking sheriff’s official underscored his disgust that Carona brought a personal-injury lawyer with him to give “condolences” to a woman whose husband, a deputy, has just died. The woman didn’t know that the lawyer, Cavallo, was operating a kickback scheme to reward Carona, his mistress, and assistant sheriffs Jaramillo and Haidl for case referrals. Mitigating factor: Conceded he didn’t personally see Carona take any of the money.

5. LISA JARAMILLO. The wife of Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo and onetime Carona fund-raiser recounted how, after she learned of illegal money pouring into Carona’s first campaign, the sheriff acknowledged that reality and said, “Sweetheart, if anyone goes to jail, it’s going to be me.” Mitigating factor: Is married to George.

4. SANDY MURPHY. The OCSD secretary shot the sleep out of several jurors’ eyes when she testified about a Carona-led cover-up for Jaramillo after the assistant sheriff got a “blowjob” in a county car from another government employee; revealed how the sheriff engaged Murphy in a heated sexual affair—including encounters inside the department’s HQ—and had asked her not to tell mistress Hoffman, whom he was also cheating on; and that Carona’s favorite phrases included “lie and deny” involving investigations. Mitigating factor: Had the bad judgment to sleep with the player with a badge.

Jaramillo and Carona shake on it
Jaramillo and Carona shake on it

3. DON HAIDL. From years of firsthand experience, the businessman-turned-assistant sheriff told jurors that Carona had created Jaramillo as “the bag man, the one who was supposed to insulate [the sheriff]” from controversy; described all the money and gifts he gave the two cops to win influence; and said that, with Carona’s blessing, he designed the reserve-deputy program as a thinly veiled way to increase the sheriff’s campaign-donor base. Mitigating factor: Faces sentencing for lying on his income-tax returns.

2. GABRIEL NASSAR. The colorful OC businessmen with a hunchback, pliable ethics and a pronounced fetish for all things cop, Nassar testified that Carona and Jaramillo paid him on a $100 bet after he’d promised he could illegally raise $25,000 for the sheriff’s 2002 re-election campaign if Carona would give five potential donors real OCSD badges. After Nassar succeeded, the county’s top cops wrote, “We will never doubt you again” on the $100 bill and even happily posed for photographs, which were shown to the jury. Mitigating factor: Nassar also had a close relationship with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

1. MIKE CARONA. So far, the ex-sheriff has taken advantage of his Fifth Amendment rights and not testified, but the government introduced secret FBI recordings of Carona plotting with Haidl that unless there had been a “pinhole” camera in Haidl’s kitchen ceiling, the men would claim that no cash bribes had “ever, ever, ever, ever, ever” been received. Mitigating factor: Carona looks pretty sitting in the defendant’s seat.

*HONORABLE MENTION: FRANK MICKADEIT. In the past, the Orange County Register columnist has served as a Carona cheerleader, but in a Dec. 8 column, the impact of weeks of embarrassing testimony prompted him to coin this beauty of a line about Carona’s relationship with Jaramillo and Haidl: “The Axis of Arrogance had created a Pyramid of Public Corruption.”

rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

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