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Fired Aide to Sheriff Denies Wrongdoing

George Jaramillo, former No. 2 man in the Orange County agency, says he was interviewed by FBI. He is the target of a grand jury inquiry.

March 19, 2004|Mai Tran and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

The day after being fired as a second in command of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, George Jaramillo maintained that he had done nothing criminal and welcomed an evenhanded investigation into the swirl of allegations surfacing against him.

Jaramillo, already the target of an Orange County Grand Jury investigation into whether he tried to protect a colleague's son from drug and sex charges, acknowledged that he spoke briefly with the FBI on Thursday but would not say why or confirm news reports that agents are inquiring about an alleged bail-bond kickback scheme.

Jaramillo said the FBI wanted to question him further and that he had hired an attorney, Pete Scalisi of Riverside, to represent him. He said he planned to cooperate with any investigation.

"When there's nothing done wrong, there's nothing to hide," Jaramillo said.

Jaramillo, a former street cop with a law degree and a reputation for ruffling feathers, equated the grand jury case and other lingering accusations to a witch hunt and promised he would clear his name.

"I am very confident that whoever is stirring the pot, [any investigations] will prove that there's been no wrongdoing for any juncture, at any time," he said. "I don't worry about getting the boot. I worry about who and what personal or political agenda is driving an unfair, unbridled hunt to find something wrong."

Jaramillo, named an assistant sheriff in 1998 after serving as manager for Michael S. Carona's successful campaign for sheriff, was dismissed Wednesday, months after the grand jury began scrutinizing his handling of criminal investigations involving the teenage son of Assistant Sheriff Donald Haidl.

Gregory Haidl, 18, is accused with two other youths of sexually assaulting a girl, which they also allegedly videotaped, during a 2002 party at his father's home in Corona del Mar. Jaramillo advised the younger Haidl not to talk to Newport Beach detectives investigating the case. In October, he allegedly tried to suppress information that the teen -- out on bail awaiting trial -- and two friends were caught allegedly possessing a small amount of marijuana.

On Thursday, KCAL-TV reported that Jaramillo was under federal investigation and that FBI agents went looking for him Wednesday and Thursday at his home in the gated community of Dove Canyon.

Without being specific, KCAL reporter Dave Lopez said investigators are seeking information about meetings between Jaramillo; the attorney for Haidl's son, Joseph Cavallo; and bail bondsmen. Lopez said Jaramillo's wife, Lisa, set up the initial meeting with bondsmen and that federal agents were also looking into her political fundraising activities.

Responding to those reports, Jaramillo said he does not work closely with bail bondsmen and that any interactions have been completely legal.

"People can investigate till the cows come home," he said. "That's their right. I have violated no laws."

Jaramillo said that in the short time since he was fired, "there's been a lot of rumors, accusations and innuendos surfacing."

He remained sour at what he called the callous way Carona fired him. The two formed a close bond after Jaramillo managed the sheriff's first election six years ago.

Newport Beach political analyst Scott Hart, who worked for former Gov. Pete Wilson, said Carona had to weigh his loyalty to a friend against the harm to his image.

Carona, who has pledged to step down when his second term expires at the end of 2006 and has indicated that he might run for lieutenant governor then, has a "stellar reputation" that was worth protecting against the questionable actions of a subordinate, Hart said.

Times staff writer Jean O. Pasco contributed to this report.

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