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Fund Solicitation Case Against O.C. Sheriff's Captain Is Moved

January 19, 2006|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

The criminal case against a high-ranking Orange County sheriff's captain has been moved to Norwalk because she and several witnesses help provide security at county courthouses.

The case against Capt. Christine Murray, who is accused of illegally soliciting campaign donations for Sheriff Michael S. Carona, will be heard by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dewey Falcone, it was decided this week.

The sheriff's office provides security and bailiffs for all of the county courthouses and operates the county jails, where defendants are housed during court proceedings.

The recusal order, which is standard in cases involving sheriff's personnel, was issued last week by Kim G. Dunning, the acting presiding judge of Orange County Superior Court. She referred the case to the state Judicial Council for reassignment.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday January 20, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Trial of sheriff's captain -- An article in some editions of Thursday's California section about the criminal case against Orange County Sheriff's Capt. Christine Murray said the trial would be moved to Norwalk. A decision on where the case will be heard has not been made.

Senior Assistant Atty Gen. Gary Schons, the lead prosecutor, declined to comment on the development. Murray's attorney, Jennifer Keller, could not be reached.

Murray, a decorated investigator, has pleaded not guilty to 16 misdemeanor counts of soliciting donations from other department employees for Carona's re-election campaign.

The case has divided the rank and file and evolved into a political shoving match between one of the sheriff's top advisors and the state attorney general's office.

The allegations date to early last year, when an internal investigation found that Murray had improperly downloaded an employee list with home addresses and telephone numbers from a computer in the sheriff's executive office, and used the information to solicit contributions, according to court papers.

A story published in the Orange County Register at the time included a quote from Michael J. Schroeder, the sheriff's attorney and political confidante, that seemed to verify that Murphy had asked colleagues for contributions.

"She confirmed she had asked for money," the newspaper quoted Schroeder as saying. "The situation was addressed and corrected."

The attorney general agreed to investigate the case because of the potential conflict of interest created by Schroeder's dual roles as an advisor to Carona and Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas. The district attorney would typically prosecute crimes in Orange County.

During his investigation, Schons concluded that Murray engaged in a cover-up with the help of Schroeder. He based his allegation partly on an affidavit Schroeder provided to Murray months into the investigation, saying the Register had misquoted him.

Schroeder is now fighting a subpoena to testify as a witness for the attorney general. In a motion he filed to stave off the subpoena, he argues that Schon is overzealous and has a history of misusing his authority against him and his wife, Susan Kang-Schroeder, spokeswoman for the district attorney.

Murray argues she is the victim of a political prosecution and that the soliciting allegations were raised by deputies who support Lt. Bill Hunt, one of three rivals in Carona's bid for a third term.

Allegations by one of her attorneys sparked a similar investigation into employee solicitations by Hunt's campaign.

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