Orange County's long, disgusting law enforcement nightmare is finally over.
Disgraced ex-Sheriff Mike Carona, once absurdly hailed as “America's sheriff” by CNN's Larry King, is going to federal prison.
This morning an all Republican panel of federal judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2009 jury conviction against Carona for witness tampering was valid.
Carona had argued it wasn't fair that FBI and IRS agents secretly recorded him repeatedly encouraging potential witnesses to give false testimony to a federal grand jury probing corruption at the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
The Ninth Circuit panel called the argument “unavailing.”
The opinion is a huge victory not just for U.S. Judge Andrew J. Guilford and federal prosecutors Brett Sagel and Ken Julian, but also for the citizens of Orange County who were internationally embarrassed by Carona, at one point the rising star of California Republican politics. He is buddies with ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“The government is pleased with the result,” Sagel told me in a telephone interview. “The Ninth Circuit decision affirms what we've been saying all along: federal law enforcement acted properly at all times.”
In April 2009, Judge Guilford sentenced Carona to serve 66 months in prison and pay a $125,000 fine. Guilford wanted him to begin serving his time immediately. But the federal appellate court granted Carona's request to remain free until his argument was considered.
Now that Carona–a notorious womanizer–has lost his appeal, Guilford likely will hold a hearing in coming weeks to determine what date the ex-sheriff must surrender to the federal Bureau of Prisons. He is expected to be housed at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Englewood in Littleton, Colorado, which has been named by MSN as one of “The Top Best Places to go to Prison” because of its abundance of games for inmates including ping-pong, foosball and pool.
Among Carona's prison buddies: Jeffrey Skilling, the former Enron executive who enriched himself by violating insider trading laws.
George Jaramillo, the man Carona handpicked to serve as the second in command at California's second largest policing agency, lives at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Herlong, which is located in northern California about 50 miles northwest of Reno, NV.
Guilford sentenced Jaramillo to a 27-month sentence (and a $233,000 fine) for using his position as assistant sheriff to illegally enrich himself by accepting bribes.
Don Haidl, the wealthy used government car salesman who illegally funded Carona and Jaramillo's rise at the OCSD and was rewarded with full police powers and an assistant sheriff title, pleaded guilty to income evasion in the case. He escaped prison by secretly cooperating with federal agents.
–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly