Wearing his traditional natty, dark suit but minus the once dominant cat-who-swallowed-the-canary glare, Assistant Sheriff turned convicted felon George Jaramillo marched into the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana today to explain why he's still not, well, a sneaky bastard.
Of course, I'm taking slight word choice liberties with the gist of assertions made in a hearing today by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford and Assistant United States Attorney Brett A. Sagel, neither of whom seem to trust any Jaramillo utterance as remotely close to gospel.
The ex-assistant sheriff, who already served his 27-month federal prison sentence as well as a year of incarceration for a separate state corruption case, claims that he can't pay $42,000 in remaining fines because he is broke, but has "every intention" of doing so when he has money.
The trouble with Jaramillo's claim is that Orange County officials gave him $476,000 in May for back pay.
Jaramillo acknowledges the payment but claims that Irvine's Joel W. Baruch, one of his criminal defense lawyers, put the money into a trust account and, because Jaramillo and Baruch are allegedly in a dispute over the distribution of the funds, he can't get "a nickel" until a resolution.
"I'm not trying to play 'hide the ball,'" Jaramillo told Guilford. "I'm simply telling the court that I have not received the funds."
But to Sagel, the onetime heir apparent to takeover the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD) in the soiled Mike Carona era is back to his old, brazenly deceitful tricks. He said there's a "ruse" to dupe the court by delaying payment until after October when Jaramillo's probation ends and the judge loses jurisdiction. The federal prosecutor said he believes there is evidence that Jaramillo concocted the trust fund story and is working as an ally with Baruch because the two men now have an undisclosed business partnership deal.
According to Sagel, Jaramillo's trust fund excuse is "his way of clouding the picture and making it seem like he can't pay . . . He's got the money right now. He can pay the $42,000."
Brent Romney, another of Jaramillo's lawyers but the only one present in court, objected to what he hailed as Sagel's "sinister" viewpoint.
But Guilford, who said he is "concerned" and "troubled greatly" by Jaramillo's story, cautioned the ex-assistant sheriff who volunteered to speak at certain points in the hearing.
"It's really important to be accurate to the court," the judge said. "There will be serious consequences if you are not."
Romney, obviously operating with the firm belief that Jaramillo is a victim of circumstances outside his control, tried to argue that the judge didn't grasp the situation, but Guilford wasn't in the mood for spin.
"[Jaramillo] said he got nothing [to satisfy the fine] and now I hear $476,000 was paid," said the judge.
Worse for Jaramillo--a former Garden Grove cop before Carona elevated him at the OCSD, the judge then declared, "It seems Mr. Jaramillo is in violation of his supervised released."
Preferring to speak rather than his lawyer, Jaramillo said he has "not deceived" and admitted that he expects to get at least $276,000 of the county payment sometime next year.
An unconvinced Guilford--who proved to be a tremendous judge during the Carona corruption trial--wondered aloud, "Is this a ruse on the court?"
He scheduled an August 27 hearing and gave Sagel subpoena power to haul witnesses like Baruch into court to explain why he's holding the payment and why his actions don't violate California State Bar rules.
If he believes that Jaramillo has tried to con him, the judge said "additional jail time" could be a punishment.
The man who once saw his future as sheriff and then as California's first Latino governor looked ashen in response. Prison must not have been enjoyable. Jaramillo had gained a reputation for maintaining an upbeat attitude even in dire, embarrassing circumstances. But nowadays the married man who once managed to use his badge to score a hot, Los Angeles porn star seems to have lost not only clumps of hair but also his mojo.
Before the end of the 55-minute hearing, Jaramillo also expressed displeasure that Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is demanding that she get his gold badge from federal custody. He says the badge was a personal gift from Carona and wasn't department issued.
He also wants the government to return a $10,000 gold watch his wife received from Hank Asher, a former Florida cocaine dealer who befriended Carona and Jaramillo before their FBI and IRS arrests.
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Guilford said the badge, watch and fine issues can be handled at the upcoming hearing.
Carona, who dreamed of defeating U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, continues to serve his 5.5-year prison sentence in a Colorado federal prison.
Despite being a crook and living in prison, the 57-year-old ex-sheriff's government pay package still deposits more than $20,000 a month in taxpayer funds into his bank account and will do so for the rest of his life.