Michael Webster
April 28, 2009
Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona gets 5 1/2 years and fined $125,000
By Michael Webster

A disappointed Mike Carona emerges from US Courthouse in Santa Ana following his sentencing to 5 1/2 years in prison and a fine of $125,000. Wife Deborah is by his side. The former Orange County Sheriff's sentence was handed down by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford Monday. The judge has the discretion to sentence Carona to anything from probation to 20 years in prison. Carona's wife Deborah accompanied her husband to court.

Former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is accompanied by his wife Deborah as Carona arrives for sentencing by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford in Santa Ana Monday. The judge sentenced Carona 66 months in federal prison and fined him $125,000. Carona could have received anything from probation to 20 years in prison. U.S. Attorneys had ask judge Guilford to sentence Carona to at least 9 years.

In a bid for leniency the former Sheriff said he regrets the words he used on a secret recording that led to his witness tampering conviction but did not take any responsibility for illegally trying to influence the grand jury testimony of his former assistant Don Haidl.

Carona is charged with asking on Haidl to withhold information about cash and gifts during a conversation at a Newport Beach restaurant in August 2007. Haidl by than had cut a deal with the feds and was cooperating by using a federal hidden microphone. It showed Carona using the F word often plotting to get their testimonies straight.

In a letter filed Friday along with dozens of others from his wife, son and a cross-section of supporters who advocate probation, Carona tells U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford that on the advice of his attorneys he cannot speak about the witness tampering charge.

"I want you to know, though, how sorry I am that I permitted myself to be drawn into that conversation with Don Haidl," Carona wrote. "When Don started talking the way he did . . . I should have gotten up and walked out of the restaurant. I wish more than anything I had done that."

Carona's letter was one of 71 filed by people such as the mother of 5-year-old murder victim Samantha Runnion and the head of a popular vodka distillery. Many of his supporters strike a similar theme, asking the judge to consider Carona's entire public service record, especially the good he has done for at-risk and missing children. Some took the media and prosecutors to task, saying they had twisted the facts at the expense of justice.

The most passionate pleas came from his wife Deborah Carona and son Matthew, 18.

"Please don't destroy us any more. Enough is enough," Carona's wife urged the judge, recounting the financial, psychological and physical toll already caused by a trial that she said was turned into a "salacious soap opera" by prosecutors. "I pray that this terror will end."

"I could honestly not ask for any more of a father and without him in my life I would fall. I feel he is my rock that I am built upon and without him I would crumble," the teenager wrote. "I ask you from the bottom of my heart to see the truth and understand that my dad is not the man that the prosecution tried to portray him as during the trial."

Probation officers recommended Carona serve 6 1/2 years in prison.

In his letter, Carona said that he has been humiliated, humbled and financially ruined by the case.

© Michael Webster


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Michael Webster

Michael Webster's Syndicated Investigative Reports are read worldwide, in 100 or more U.S. outlets and in at least 136 countries and territories. He publishes articles in association with global news agencies and media information services with more than 350 news affiliates in 136 countries... (more)


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