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O.C. Sheriff's Attorney Fights Subpoena

State attorney general wants the lawyer to testify in a case involving a department captain.

January 12, 2006|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

An attorney for Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona is fighting a subpoena to testify as a witness in a criminal case against a senior department official, saying the government's prosecutor is overzealous and has a vendetta against him.

Michael J. Schroeder, an unpaid legal advisor to Carona and a longtime political confidant, filed the motion Tuesday in an effort to prevent the state attorney general's office from calling him as a witness in a criminal case against one of Carona's captains. The two sides appeared in court Wednesday, but the matter was continued.

Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Gary Schons has accused Schroeder of trying to cover up criminal allegations against Capt. Christine Murray, who is charged with illegally soliciting campaign contributions for the sheriff. Schroeder is not charged in the case.

Schroeder says Schons has a history of misusing his authority against him and his wife, Susan Kang-Schroeder, spokeswoman for the district attorney.

His motion to quash the subpoena offers a glimpse into a feud that dates to 2002, when the grand jury was investigating Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas. It also adds another element to the turmoil surrounding Carona.

Schons "apparently has an agenda with Schroeder," the motion says. "This is not the first time that Schons has tried to invoke the weight of his office against Schroeder in an improper fashion."

He argues that the subpoena should be tossed out because Schons has "made numerous serious, irresponsible and baseless charges" and that it would be a "gross violation" of his rights and duties as an attorney if he were forced to take the stand.

Schons declined to comment, saying he would file his response with the court.

The recent clash grew out of conclusions Schons made while investigating Murray, who is now awaiting trial on 16 misdemeanor counts of soliciting donations from other department employees. It is illegal for government employees to solicit campaign contributions from fellow workers.

Schons was assigned the case after the attorney general's office concluded that Schroeder's dual roles as an advisor to both the sheriff and district attorney presented a potential conflict of interest.

Schons filed a brief in November accusing Schroeder of helping Murray cover up the allegations.

Schons said he based his allegations partly on statements Schroeder made to the Orange County Register, which quoted him as saying that Murray "confirmed she had asked for money. The situation was addressed and corrected." Schroeder later provided an affidavit to Murray saying he was misquoted.

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