It appears our long regional nightmare is over: disgraced ex-sheriff Mike Carona has apparently run out of appeals of his 5 1/2-year federal prison sentence for witness tampering.
Carona has now lost in district court in Santa Ana and twice before appeal courts in his attempt to overturn his conviction or reduce his sentence, meaning he must stay in the federal prison in Littleton, Colo., through Nov. 8, 2015.
"Mike Carona remains a convicted felon and will serve out his 66-month prison term," reacted Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel, the federal prosecutor on the case that had the former Orange County sheriff skate on other corruption counts.
The latest U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling appears to end Carona's legal options for early release, Sagel added to City News Service.
Lawyers for "America's Sheriff," as Larry King once dubbed Carona, tried to argue that U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford should have considered in sentencing the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Skilling v. United States, which narrowed the legal definition of kickbacks and bribes.
Carona, who was convicted in January 2009 of attempting to convince former (and now deceased) assistant sheriff Don Haidl to lie during a federal grand jury probe, should have been punished not for witness tampering and bribery but conflict of interest and receipt of unauthorized compensation, which would have reduced his sentence to somewhere between 2-2 1/2 years behind bars, his attorney argued in April.
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Guilford went on to reject that motion, saying the conviction was not influenced by the Skilling case and, even if it was, the judge had the right to impose a 5 1/2-year sentence based on Carona's "high position of trust as an elected law enforcement official, and his betrayal of that trust."
"The investigation was looking into possible bribery," agreed the 9th Circuit. "Whether Carona actually committed or was convicted of bribery is immaterial. ... The sentence imposed was not substantively unreasonable."
What's good for the George apparently isn't good for the gander: George Jaramillo, another former assistant sheriff of Carona's, had his corruption conviction overturned by a federal appellate panel based on the Skilling case.