By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
After hearing evidence, a federal jury concluded that "there were no areas of policy over which [Hunt] had policymaking authority," that "[Hunt's] responsibilities were restricted to implementing [the department's] goals within a general framework" and that he didn't have "substantial influence" over any OCSD policy.
Yet federal Judge Margaret M. Morrow, a Bill Clinton appointee from Harvard, contorted logic. After noting that jurors also concluded that Hunt had the ability to influence the implementation of Carona-made policies in San Clemente, Morrow claimed the sheriff had a "vital government interest" in silencing his critic and ruled in his favor. In this judge's mind, a policy implementer who had no policymaking authority was still a policymaker.
Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected Morrow's stance as "wrong." In a 19-page ruling, the court said that "all reasonable inferences" of the facts "support the conclusion that Hunt was not a policymaker."
Would Hunt finally catch a break after bravely standing against a crooked sheriff?
Despite declaring the policymaking excuse hogwash, the Ninth Circuit let the ex-sheriff play his last disingenuous card by ruling Carona cannot be held legally accountable after all because his erroneous assumption about Hunt's status as a policymaker had been sincere. Courts have permitted this type of loophole defense in the past. Without noting that Carona is a certifiable liar and convicted felon, the judges based their case-ending conclusion on his word.
"It's unbelievable," said Hunt, now a private detective whose state lawsuit alleging Carona violated the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights is ongoing. "Where's the justice? This ruling chills deputies down the road from ever telling the truth about corruption."
This column appeared in print as "Mike Carona's Excellent Big House Adventure: OC's incarcerated dirty ex-sheriff is enjoying his Rocky Mountain view and ridiculously favorable court rulings."