Should a convicted felon's public refusal to accept responsibility for criminal conduct be a major factor in what punishment a judge ultimately issues?
Mike Carona (pictured, momentarily pausing between gloating sessions with the media) should hope not.
Today, after a jury found him not guilty on five counts but guilty of coaching a potential federal grand jury witness how to lie under oath, the ex-Orange County sheriff acted as if he'd won a Super Lotto jackpot or a Hank Asher-paid trip to a Nevada whorehouse.
"I absolutely feel vindicated," he told a reporter. "Beyond vindicated . . . I never gave up the belief that I was innocent."
Jurors I interviewed insisted they believe Carona did accept bribes, lie and cheat, but felt constrained by complicated jury instructions and the statute of limitations.
"He shouldn't be celebrating anything," one juror told me after the verdicts were announced. "His conduct as the sheriff was deplorable. He really should be ashamed."
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Well, it's all moot anyway. Carona declared that he's now got an all-powerful ally. God, he says, has forgiven him for being . . . so innocent and vindicated, I presume.
The ball is now in Judge Andrew Guilford's court to let Carona know that, back in reality, he's not innocent and that repeatedly attempting to sabotage a federal grand jury's corruption investigation is a serious crime.
A hearing to establish Carona's punishment is set for April 27. The sentencing range is probation to 20 years. Don't be surprised if prosecutors seek more than 12 months of incarceration for the new convicted felon who thinks he's been vindicated.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly