For Gregory Scott Haidl, being the centerpiece of what became known as Orange County's internationally infamous Haidl Gang Rape case means never genuinely saying you're sorry and always searching for an angle to weaken rendered punishment.
Haidl, who made a child-porn video of himself and two buddies sexually assaulting an unconscious, 16-year-old girl on a Corona del Mar sofa and pool table in 2002, received (along with co-defendants Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann) six-year prison terms and, because of the warped nature of their acts, lifetime requirements to register publicly as sex offenders.
Though the 28-year-old Haidl has served his prison stint, he believes he was unconstitutionally wronged by Superior Court Judge Francisco Briseño's 2006, sex-offender registration condition that mandates public access to his photo, his crimes, physical descriptions–including tattoos (skull and crossbones on his abdomen)–and alleged city of residence (San Clemente), but not his street address.
This judicial nugget annoys the privacy-seeking convicted felon who has repeatedly sought to overturn his conviction or, at least, the registration requirement. In 2010, the California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana rejected his argument. The following year, the California Supreme Court did the same. Most recently, he has taken his cause to U.S. District Court.
According to Haidl's federal lawsuit, the conviction should be overturned because his chief defense lawyer, Joseph G. Cavallo, gave incompetent legal aid, made boneheaded court moves designed to increase legal fees, and placed a greater emphasis on winning publicity for himself than defeating prosecutors. It also claims Briseño erred by blocking important defense evidence designed to portray the victim as sexually promiscuous and by improperly mandating the registration requirement without necessary jury permission.
The most controversial claim–Cavallo's alleged incompetence–mostly deals with Haidl's assertion that he could have cut his prison exposure in half and avoided the registration mandate if he'd accepted a trial-eve plea bargain crafted by Al Stokke, another defense lawyer, with prosecutors. Stokke and Haidl's father, then-Assistant Orange County Sheriff Don Haidl, passionately insisted he accept the deal.
But the younger Haidl says Cavallo convinced him to ignore the proposal by guaranteeing he'd win an acquittal of the charges that included the defendants repeatedly shoving an apple-juice can, Snapple bottle, lit cigarette and pool cue into the victim's vagina and rectum.
The elder Haidl made a fortune of tens of millions of dollars in the used-car auction business in Rancho Cucamonga and–because he had no law-enforcement training–bribed then-Sheriff (now prison inmate) Mike Carona into giving him a top-ranking post at the Orange County Sheriff's Department. In hopes of crushing the charges against his son and intimidating the victim, he spent millions of dollars to create a legal defense team of more than a dozen lawyers (including Cavallo, who was eventually convicted in a bail-bondsmen-kickback scheme; John Barnett; Pete Scalisi, Thomas E. Dunn, Peter J. Morreale and Armand Arabian, a former California Supreme Court justice) as well as private detective John Warren, a retired FBI agent. Two words describe their tactics: disgracefully ruthless.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich studied each of Haidl's complaints as well as opposing arguments from California Attorney General Kamala Harris and made the following conclusions:
–Cavallo's advice to proceed to a second trial wasn't unreasonable given that he'd won a defense-tilting, deadlocked jury in the first trial;
–Haidl willingly rejected the plea-bargain proposal and the advice of his father and Stokke, a more experienced lawyer than Cavallo;
–Briseño acted well within his duties as the trial judge to impose the sex-offender-registration requirements;
–The judge, OC's senior member of the bench, properly rejected the introduction of dubious evidence that the victim had given the three defendants implied advance consent to shove all the foreign objects into her lower orifices because she'd allegedly done so to herself in public prior to their sexual assault.
This month, U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu accepted Wistrich's recommendations to deny Haidl's appeal and closed the case.
Upshot: Haidl–who, in hopes for leniency, apologized for his crimes at his sentencing hearing, and then quickly resumed blaming his victim when he didn't win his demand for probation–must continue to register as a sex offender.
The elder Haidl, who avoided federal prison by testifying against the FBI-arrested Carona but had to pay a fine for cheating on his income taxes, died at the age of 61 in December 2012.
Specializing in cases involving alleged dirty cops, Barnett recently represented ex-Fullerton Police Department cop Manuel Ramos in the Kelly Thomas murder trial and won an acquittal against District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Cavallo was disbarred for several years following his kickback conviction, which resulted in a punishment of home detention for six months, and is now practicing law from an Irvine office.