Lawfuel.com – Legal Newswire –
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Michael S. Carona, the former sheriff of Orange County, was sentenced today to 66 months in federal prison and ordered to pay a fine of $125,000 after being convicted of witness tampering for attempting to convince a former assistant to lie to and withhold testimony from a federal grand jury that was investigating allegations of corruption in Carona’s campaign for sheriff and his activities after taking office.
Carona, 54, was sentenced by United States District Judge Andrew J. Guilford on the witness tampering count, but in doing so took into account evidence presented at trial of a more wide-ranging corruption scheme in which Carona used illegal contributions during his campaign and personally accepted cash bribes.
At today’s sentencing hearing, Judge Guilford called the witness tampering count “a very serious offense” and stated: “Lying will not be tolerated in this courtroom, especially by law enforcement, especially by the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the county.”
A federal jury that heard evidence for approximately eight weeks convicted Carona of witness tampering in January. The guilty verdict stemmed from a secretly recorded meeting in August 2007, when Carona attempted to convince former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl to lie to a federal grand jury that Carona thought had issued a subpoena to Haidl.
“Mr. Carona violated his sworn duty and utterly ignored his responsibilities to the citizens of Orange County by engaging in the conduct that led to his conviction and sentence, conduct that culminated in an agreement to obstruct justice by concocting a story to cover up his corrupt behavior,” said United States Attorney Thomas P. O’Brien. “Today’s sentencing shows what will happen to elected officals who place their own interests above those of the constituents they are sworn to serve.”
In papers filed with the court in anticipation of today’s sentencing, federal prosecutors argued that Carona either received or solicited cash and other things of value worth at least $432,144.
“I would like to recognize the federal prosecutors and agents who handled the investigation and prosecution of former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona, who violated his position as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the county while overseeing the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, the fifth-largest law enforcement agency in the nation,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The conviction and sentencing welcome a new era of law enforcement in Orange County with Sandra Hutchens at the helm. FBI personnel look forward to working collaboratively with the new Sheriff and continuing the strong relationships with the rank and file officers of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, who maintained the highest level of integrity throughout this investigation and prosecution.”
Leslie DeMarco, Special Agent in Charge for IRS-Criminal Investigation for the Los Angeles Field Office, stated: “Today’s sentencing of the once-famed ‘America’s Sheriff’ sends a clear message to the citizens of Orange County, as well as the American public, that criminal actions of our elected officials will not be tolerated. IRS criminal investigators will continue to use their expertise in the public corruption arena and assist our fellow law enforcement partners in uncovering financial transactions that lead to money laundering and criminal tax violations.”
The case against Carona is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and IRS-Criminal Investigation.
Release No. 09-054