Brian Sun, the Los Angles-based lawyer representing indicted ex-Orange County sheriff Mike Carona, emerged from U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford's Santa Ana courtroom this afternoon all smiles. Minutes before, Sun and federal prosecutor Ken Julian had selected a panel of 12 citizens to hear USA vs. Carona.
"It's ironic . . . ," Sun began to say enthusiastically to gathered Jones Day lemmings. But he spied me nearby, holding a pen on notepad. He hushed his voice and continued his assessment.
It's clear that Sun--a diminutive fellow physically but a giant by reputation in the legal-defense community--seems elated by the prospects of this 11-men-and-a-lone-woman jury hearing tales of a raunchy, married Carona who converted his badge into a VIP ticket to enter, well, loose, needy, overweight women scattered all over Las Vegas as well as Orange County, various other California locales and in Moscow. Recall that as sheriff Carona once incredibly asked the wife of a criminal defendant to accompany him on a romantic weekend in San Francisco.
But who better to understand—appreciate?—those urges than a bunch of OC men? In the last year, I have witnessed two male-dominated juries here sympathize with an Irvine cop who ejaculated on the breasts of a female motorist during a traffic stop and a Homeland Security agent who fondled a Vietnamese woman seeking citizenship.
Perhaps even better for the defense was an answer given by a man (let's call him Joe the Juror) who eventually landed a role as an alternative panelist. Asked by Julian (no slouch in the courtroom) if he objected to limits on gifts public officials take in office, this man had this to say: "I really don't know any reason to agree or disagree. I really don't have a preference. If he took a gift, I'd hope they'd [sic] be selective."
Answers like that may help explain why Sun and the federal public defender representing one of Carona's mistresses (also on trial) threw women off the panel almost as quickly as they were seated.
I'd give you more detail, but Judge Guilford senselessly banned the public from observing the proceedings firsthand. U.S. Marshals, some senselessly gruff, ordered reporters to a room four floors below. There, as alternating marshals eyed us or focused on a crossword puzzle, four reporters watched a closed-circuit airing of the selection process that included painfully crappy camerawork and even worse audio. If Guilford's goal was to keep reporters in the dark, he largely succeeded.
"Sorry, John and Ken [no-holds-barred KFI-AM radio hosts who've cut through the Carona bullshit during their broadcasts] wrecked it for you guys," one marshal tried to rationalize to me and Los Angeles Times reporter Christine Hanley.
But I've got even better news for Sun and Carona, who faces bribery charges: I have a feeling that you might really love this jury. Despite aforementioned attempts to hamper the Fourth Estate, I managed to spend time close up observing many of the folks who may decide if Carona is guilty of corruption while he ran the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Here's one conversation I overheard:
Prospective juror 1: Think of the books deals!
Prospective juror 2: Yeah, Dr. Phil, Oprah . . . Dateline!!
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Prospective jurors 1 & 2: [laughing]
Just what the interests of justice need: Jurors thinking of lining their pockets with cash and fame.
Opening statements in the trial begin on Wednesday morning.
-- R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly