With apologies to Larry King, America's Incarcerated Sheriff has been released from federal prison. Mike Carona, the former Orange County lawman the veteran broadcaster dubbed "America's Sheriff" after appearing on King's longtime CNN show to call out a child murderer, is now back home after serving 52 months of a 66-month sentence for felony witness tampering. Carona, who served most of his sentence at a low-security prison in Littleton, Colorado, was released from a federal prison medical center in Lexington, Kentucky, he had been transferred to, according to officials.
There had been talk of Carona, who was eligible for early release from prison due to good behavior, moving on to a halfway house. He returned to Southern California on Wednesday and was processed through a halfway house before going to his residence, where he is under home confinement through Nov. 8, according to his pal Mike Schroeder.
"He's doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances," said Schroeder, the attorney, local kingmaker and former state GOP chairman, to City News Service.
Carona had worked in OC law enforcement for 32 years and been the county's top cop for nine years when he was convicted in 2009 as part of a federal corruption investigation. The 59-year-old, who stood accused of accepting cash and gifts in exchange for allowing access to the powers and resources of his office, was ironically put away through the testimony of one of those donors, the late Don Haidl. The used-car salesman-turned-assistant sheriff with no law enforcement experience secretly recorded Carona for the feds.
Whoever coined "crime does not pay" obviously did not know Carona, who remains eligible for a $195,120 annual state pension and, while in prison, won a financial settlement in a workers' compensation case against Orange County for back and hip injuries he suffered in a 2005 on-duty car accident.
That wasn't the only legal paperwork Carona filed while in lockup, as my colleague R. Scott "Throw Away the Key" Moxley reported that the disgraced ex-sheriff fought his sentence tooth and nail until the end, despite routinely losing motions and appeals.
While in Colorado's Club Fed, the onetime GOP rising star grew a beard and, despite a mostly bald head, a ponytail. It truly was more like a vacation resort than a prison, complete with a stunning view of the Rockies. Forbes rated the Federal Correctional Institution Englewood among "The 12 Best Places to Go to Prison."
Now that he is back home in Orange County, where longtime members of this alt. weekly staff can remember a Carona reign that had us enjoying more news pages, compounding scoops coming out of the sheriff's office and–our personal favorite–the revelation of the "Lil' Sheriff" nickname the philandering born-again Christian lawman assigned to his manhood, we make this sincere plea:
Please, oh, please, Mike Carona, please run for Loretta Sanchez's open congressional seat. Please.