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Orange County Attorney, 2 Other Men Are Charged in Bail Bonds Scheme

His lawyer says Joseph Cavallo is innocent and that prosecution has 'appearance of bias.'

October 08, 2005|H.G. Reza and Claire Luna | Times Staff Writers

Prominent Orange County defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo was arrested and booked Friday after being named in a felony indictment alleging that he and two bail bonds employees conspired to steer jail inmates and others to his law firm.

Cavallo, whose aggressive defense of an assistant sheriff official's son in a gang rape case added to his contentious reputation, was uncharacteristically subdued Friday when he appeared in Orange County Superior Court in Santa Ana.

But his attorney, John D. Barnett, offered a terse and pointed response to the criminal charges.

"Cavallo is not guilty. He committed no crimes whatsoever. He's going to be vindicated," said Barnett after a brief hearing, during which arraignment was continued until Nov. 4.

The indictment, which was unsealed Friday, is the latest in a series of legal developments among some of Orange County's most powerful and politically connected, including Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas and Sheriff Michael S. Carona.

Barnett said he found it curious that his client was indicted after representing Gregory Haidl, the son of a former assistant sheriff, and then defending George Jaramillo, another assistant sheriff who was fired and has been charged with bribery.

"There is at least the appearance of bias in the prosecution of an opponent so vigorous in his attacks against the district attorney's office," Barnett said.

Rackauckas denied that the prosecution was politically motivated.

"We're not in the business of prosecuting people because we don't like them," he said. "People get indicted because of their conduct, not because of name-calling."

Cavallo, a former Carona political supporter, has filed a legal claim against the sheriff, accusing him of bullying and threatening him for representing Jaramillo, who was fired by Carona in 2003.

Cavallo clashed repeatedly with the district attorney's office during his defense of Haidl and Jaramillo over what he said were unethical tactics by the prosecution.

Barnett said he might try to have the Orange County district attorney's office removed from the case.

Cavallo said he intends to file a complaint with the state attorney general's office over details of the sealed indictment being leaked to a local television station.

In the indictment, Cavallo is named in three of the counts while George Andres Castro and Alejandro de Jesus Cruz, both of Xtreme Bail Bonds in Santa Ana, were named in all five. They were also accused of using unlicensed bail agents and unlawfully soliciting clients at Orange County Jail.

Cavallo was released on $25,000 bail, but Castro remained in custody. Cruz has not been located.

According to prosecutors, the investigation began in February 2004 when a bail agent complained that Xtreme Bail Bonds and other bail companies were illegally referring customers to attorneys.

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