Mike Carona's Excellent Big House Adventure

[Moxley Confidential] OC's incarcerated dirty ex-sheriff is enjoying his Rocky Mountain view and ridiculously favorable court rulings

Thirteen months ago, Mike Carona—onetime sheriff of California's second-largest sheriff's agency, the most popular politician in Orange County and, in the view of Republican strategists, the man destined to unseat U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer—entered his new home: a federal prison in Littleton, Colorado.

By the time of that once seemingly impossible moment, we'd learned ugly truths about Carona's chameleonic nature as head of the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD). He posed as the ethical savior of the agency while he secretly took bundles of cash, tailor-made suits, a boat, jet rides and casino chips from a San Bernardino used-car salesman determined to get a real sheriff's badge and full police powers. He gave passionate speeches about the Lord ruling his life while he practiced vodka-martini-fueled serial adultery. He swore to uphold the sanctity of the criminal-justice system while he partied—in uniform!—at Newport Beach bars with organized-crime members and conspired to thwart a federal grand jury's probe into his maneuverings.

To appreciate Carona's skill at masking his vices behind a potent smile and warm handshakes, recall that President George W. Bush named him to a top-secret panel overseeing national security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toyed with the idea of him as California's lieutenant governor. Though Carona had been a gloried bailiff who'd never made an arrest or solved a crime, Hollywood producers wanted to feature him as the star of reality-TV shows depicting law-enforcement heroics.

Not surprisingly, I've received reports from inside the Colorado prison that he's fitting in with the other inmates. To show he's hip, Carona has grown a ponytail. He likes to sip coffee, tell stories and gaze at the nearby Rocky Mountains. No doubt his incarceration is made easier by the fact that OC taxpayers will continue to pay him about $20,000-per-month for the rest of his life.

Having watched the guy in action for nearly 17 years, I know people have succumbed to his wily charms. But he should have lost his magic when FBI and IRS agents arrested him on public-corruption charges in October 2007. Or certainly by May 2009, when U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford rejected Carona's excuses (including that federal agents should have told him in advance they were going to surreptitiously record his conversations with the aforementioned used-car salesman) and sentenced him to serve 66 months in prison.

Yet, incredibly, more than four years after his public persona collapsed, Carona's lies still wield power even over folks who aren't normally gullible. Forget for a moment our county's Board of Supervisors, which continues to spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars defending the ex-sheriff's despicable acts in lawsuits. Instead, focus your attention on four federal judges and the alarming civil case of former sheriff's Lieutenant Bill Hunt.

For 21 years, Hunt enjoyed a stellar career at OCSD. Unlike Carona, he rose through the ranks based on merit. The Massachusetts native excelled at every assignment: narcotics, patrol, jail, SWAT, investigations and as the popular chief of police in San Clemente, where the department holds a contract to provide police services.

Fourteen years into Hunt's career, Carona won the sheriff's post in an election. He'd secretly stolen that contest, a fact that took a decade and a federal trial to uncover. Above everything else, this sheriff prized not only personal loyalty, but also a willingness to lie and cheat to advance his fake, Christian-conservative persona. These observations explain the rise of Jo Ann Galisky, a reality-challenged deputy who didn't graduate from high school yet leaped ahead of dozens upon dozens of more qualified deputies to assume the rank of assistant sheriff under Carona.

This column isn't meant as an exhaustive list of Carona's failings that wrecked OCSD, but rather to provide context for Hunt's decision to challenge his boss in the 2006 election. Though he lost that race to the much-better-funded Carona, Hunt helped expose the sheriff's ugly side to a mostly ignorant community.

No good deed goes unpunished. The day after the election, the sheriff sent a message to his public employees: He demoted Hunt three ranks and reassigned him to work in Stanton, the department's Siberia. He also ordered veteran deputies to investigate Hunt for possible rule violations instead of pursuing street criminals. In a deposition obtained by the Weekly, Carona bragged that his goal had been to "humiliate."

Hunt quit and, claiming First Amendment violations, sued in July 2007. In response, the sheriff and the county's lawyers in consultation with county supervisors surmised they would legally justify the retaliation against Hunt as permissible on a technicality: Hunt could be abused because he'd been an OCSD "policymaker."

The notion is, of course, shamelessly disingenuous. Though Hunt was a chief of police, he was one of 60 lieutenants in the department. He reported to the captain of South County operations, and that person reported to an assistant sheriff. He didn't regularly meet with Carona. He never designed a policy, and he never modified a policy. He was never asked to participate in policy-making decisions. His job was to carry out orders from above without question. He couldn't even hire or fire the deputies on his staff.

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18 comments
liamknuj313
liamknuj313

Wow we have a Judge found guilty by the Judicial Counsel of "obstructing a grand jury investigation."  They can't imprison judges though.  Our DA ignores the charges, now he and his crony's have a judge in their pocket.  Corruption is their oyster http://www.occupyplacerville.com

jdseanjd
jdseanjd

So this chap has been screwed by his Sheriff, by a Federal Judge & by a Court of appeals judge.

Corruption has been protected & indeed rewarded to the tune of $20,000 PER MONTH. & whistleblowers have been frightened off forever.

 

Congratulations to you people of Orange County, you have the justice system you deserve.

Get off your butts & do something about it.

Make a movie which points fingers in the right direction, this would make a great movie plot.

 

I thought we had a crazy criminal justice system in the UK, but this is ridiculous.

 

Remember for evil to triumph, it only needs for good men to do nothing.

 

We live in interesting times.

:)

JD.

Robert Kavanaugh
Robert Kavanaugh

Terrible ruling. Even worse as an appeal. "Yeah, you were screwed Lt. Hunt, but you were sincerely screwed, so it must have been okay." I hope you're insured by someone else for the costs and attorney's fees. What a world.

Book Em Dano
Book Em Dano

Do you REALLY think Corona is an isolated incident in the OSCD or for that matter all OC Law Enforcement Agencies? Don't kid yourself he only got caught. Of late there is so much Police Corruption in all agencies and the OCDA its unreal. Someone needs to do an in depth report about why there is so much increase in OC police corruption because its frightening and continues to unfold daily

Zeitgeist714
Zeitgeist714

Seems fair enough. Let's all just move on

Betty
Betty

How is there not some outcry / lawsuit / barring of this:

"OC taxpayers will continue to pay him about $20,000-per-month for the rest of his life."

That's per MONTH in case you missed that the first time.

Mr
Mr

I used to work for Sheriff Carona. That was 10 years ago. Ever since, I've been in the drug business. Enough said. :) Thanks Carona for showing me the ropes!!! Cheers!

Jerry Ibarra
Jerry Ibarra

A lot of people our doing more time for lesser crimes while the Board of Supervisors toys with Criminal Re-alignment. Sad! I am glad he fits in, who thought he would not

Joe
Joe

"Qualified immunity" is the federal term which governed this decision. It works for justice in many instances, but not this time. Hunt is a good man and didn't deserve what he got from Felon Carona.

corrupt county
corrupt county

Tragically, there is no justice in Orange County, California.... unless of course, you are an insider to the civil and criminal RICO enterprise that the OCDA, OC Sheriff and OC Board of Supervisors whole heartedly support. You are either in.... or you are an outcast.

This County will never be safe from evil political crimes until OC citizens clean house and rid the county's government, religious institutions and public/private schools of corrupt, self-serving and financially motivated individuals who preach Christianity but in reality, behind closed doors, it is all about MONEY MONEY POWER POWER MONEY AND MORE POWER.

jdseanjd
jdseanjd

Yes three cheers for R Scott Moxley.

Brilliant work.

Looks like lots more housecleaning to be done Mr Moxley.

theroachsays
theroachsays

Maybe it's time for a ballot measure to bar peace officers from collecting a pension when they are found guilty of felony crimes. And make that retroactive to effect former Sheriff Carona.

949girl
949girl

It's pretty crazy that he gets to keep his pension!

Pumpuy2010
Pumpuy2010

I am also starting to think Hutchens is not all she is cracked up to be. I wonder what people think of her... Comments?

949girl
949girl

Yes, please do! Spill the beans!

 
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