R. Scott Moxley, reporting from the Santa Ana courthouse during an afternoon break, says the judge and lawyers for the defense and prosecution in Mike Carona's sentencing hearing on a felony corruption count, are talking about 63 to 78 months behind bars and a $125,000 fine for the man once dubbed "America's Sheriff."
Prosecutors Brett Sagel and Ken Julian had sought 108 months or nine years in prison for attempting to sabotage a grand jury investigation into abuse of power and bribery at the Orange County Sheriff's Department. That's 30 months more than what a federal probation officer recently recommended based on sentencing guidelines.
Defense attorneys had urged probation for their client.
Both sides have won concessions from U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford, but a huge blow was dealt to the defense when he ruled witness Don Haidl, Carona's former assistant sheriff, was credible. The defense had vehemently contended the multi-millionaire businessman who voluntarily ran Carona's reserve unit was a liar.
According to occrimescene, which is Twittering the sentencing hearing, Guilford said Carona's crime hurt the community. "Lying will not be tolerated in this courtroom," the judge said, ". . . especially by the county's leading law enforcement officer. . . . The Mike Carona we see telling someone to lie speaks poorly of your characteristics."
The judge said he didn't understand the "unrestrained celebrations" after Carona's guilty verdict (he was cleared of several other charges). "A wrong message was sent regarding respect for the law and the jury system," said Guilford, who indicated his sentence would be hard on Carona's family.
"Carona has given no indication he wouldn't ask some again to lie," said the judge, who believes "the Bureau of Prisons will protect Mr. Carona, just as Carona protected inmates under his care."
(God help him then!)
Guilford ordered the $125,000 fine.
Secret recordings Haidl made for the FBI reveal the then-sheriff plotting to get Haidl to lie about bribery and gifts. A portion of the transcript from Carona and Haidl's July 7, 2007, conversation at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa follows:
CARONA: Good night Peggy. Um, Dennis kind of filled like the role that you did, you know, in the first campaign. I mean cause, I literally, I, I didn't wanna run Don. I wasn't gonna run. I just wanted to get through all this shit man. So also I'm trying to figure out how to make this, make this thing--Dennis stepped up, he was the Don Haidl. He was going to you know his friends. Dennis probably raised me, I'm gonna guess, a hundred grand in this campaign, you know by going to his friends and family--
HAIDL: Yeah sure, sure.
CARONA: --like what you did. I mean literally what you did. Uhm, [unintelligible], we, nothing. Not even uh, [unintelligible]. Hanshaw, had lunch with Hanshaw yesterday. Hanshaw put $700,000 in the our Foundation. And happy to do more, do whatever we want. Uh, [unintelligible] both Hanshaw and Dennis are PSR's. George had Hanshaw convinced to give George, for Hanshaw to give George uh, a brand new Navigator, when George became sheriff.
HAIDL: No shit?
CARONA: Yeah. And Hanshaw was paying him--
HAIDL: [unintelligible] a little cheap. Could've done better. [chuckles]
CARONA: Apparently that's the car George wanted [unintelligible]
HAIDL: [unintelligible] a hubcap deal you know.
CARONA: [unintelligible] a phrase I...I use this Don Haidl phrase on an ongoing basis man, it's like you know, all this shit surrounds Nigger money. I mean it's, it literally is Nigger money.
CARONA: All, all George and Joe had to be is just C players. They didn't have to be stars, man. You know they, just by not--
CARONA: --fucking anybody over they were valuable.
HAIDL: Sit there and shut up.
The courtroom was so packed this morning when Carona entered the media had to be sat in the jury box. He was cheerfully hugging and shaking the hands of people when he arrived, but Carona turned "very solemn" as the events unfolded.
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The hearing was scheduled to resume after an afternoon break.