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Don Haidl Quits as Assistant Sheriff

The O.C. businessman cites the 'heartbreaking and burdensome' difficulties of the gang-rape allegations against his son.

September 25, 2004|David Haldane and Claire Luna | Times Staff Writers

Citing the difficulties and personal guilt of dealing with rape charges against his teenage son, Donald G. Haidl stepped down on Friday as assistant sheriff in charge of the volunteer Protective Services Reserve.

It was the department's second high-ranking departure since allegations surfaced that Haidl's son and two friends videotaped themselves gang-raping an unconscious 16-year-old girl at the Haidl Corona del Mar home in 2002.

"As you know, the past two years have been extremely difficult for my family," Haidl wrote in a letter to Sheriff Michael S. Carona on Friday afternoon, expressing sentiments he later expanded in an interview with The Times. "The accusations against my son," Haidl wrote, have "put a spotlight upon us and [have] been both heartbreaking and burdensome."

Carona, a longtime friend, responded with a written statement commending Haidl's 20 years of service as a volunteer peace officer and saying he would be missed. The 53-year-old wealthy businessman had held his current position for five years and served without pay.

"Don's contributions to the Orange County Sheriff's Department have been nothing short of incredible," Carona wrote.

The senior Haidl and George Jaramillo, a former Garden Grove lieutenant, were heavily involved in Carona's bid for the county's top law-enforcement job. Jaramillo, also a lawyer, was his campaign manager, and Haidl, who owns an auto auction company, was a key campaign fundraiser. After Carona won in 1998, both became top lieutenants in the sheriff's administration, leading to harsh criticism that he had unwisely rewarded political favors.

Six months ago, Carona fired Jaramillo, who was under investigation by the county grand jury for allegedly trying to protect Gregory Haidl, 19, in the gang-rape case and a subsequent incident involving the alleged possession of a small amount of marijuana.

No charges were filed in the drug incident, though Gregory Haidl was later charged with statutory rape after allegedly having sex with another 16-year-old girl after the gang-rape trial ended in a hung jury. In an interview Friday, Don Haidl said the idea of resigning had been on his mind for some time, but he had been seriously considering it only the last few days.

"I just don't have the time to do it anymore," he said of his job. "I've done my time, helped a lot of people. Time with my family is more important."

Haidl said that no one had pressured him to resign.

"This was my decision," he said, adding that, upon hearing the news, the sheriff "was sad, but he knows me personally and he knows what my family's been through. He doesn't blame me. There's a lot of good people who can take it from here."

Haidl said he will continue to blame himself for the ordeal involving his son.

"The treatment of my son as a result of my position has caused a lot of guilt on my part."

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