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State clears Carona of sex harassment

Attorney general's office says one allegation against the O.C. sheriff could not be verified, and in the other there was no crime.

January 11, 2007|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

The state attorney general's office dropped its criminal investigation into two allegations of sexual harassment against Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona, determining that one case had no merit and the other could not be substantiated, a state official said Wednesday.

The allegations in both cases involve women who are relatives of former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who was fired by Carona in early 2004 and is awaiting trial on corruption and other charges partly related to allegations that he misused county resources.

Allegations made by Erica Hill, Jaramillo's sister-in-law, could not be investigated because she would not cooperate, said attorney general spokesman Nathan Barankin.

In a second case, the office cleared Carona of criminal sexual harassment allegations filed by a Mission Viejo man on behalf of his former wife, although investigators determined that Carona had violated his own department's rules in that case.

The outcome brings an end to accusations that became public last year while Carona was campaigning for a third term, fueling a heated political race that divided his department.

The sheriff had asked the attorney general to investigate the allegations, which he has adamantly denied from the beginning. Carona could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Hill, in interviews and a Sept. 2005 letter she sent to the Orange County Board of Supervisors and the attorney general, accused the sheriff of sexually assaulting her during his first term in office. She said she had had sex with Carona four times from 1999 to 2001 and that she gave in to his advances after he said he would not hire her husband as a deputy if she didn't have sex with him. Her husband, a warehouse worker from whom she is now separated, was never employed by the department.

"That matter's over," Barankin said. "Basically, what happened is we sought to gather information from Ms. Hill about her allegations, and she never came forward to provide us with any."

Hill declined to comment.

In the other case, the state attorney general's office concluded that although Carona did not break the law, he did violate department policy by asking a woman out for drinks and inviting her to spend a weekend with him in San Francisco.

The woman's former husband, who filed the original complaint against Carona, received a letter this week from the attorney general's office indicating that the investigation was complete and that "violations of Sheriff's Department rules and regulations were found, and appropriate follow-up measures are being taken."

Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Gary W. Schons, the author of the Dec. 26 letter, declined to elaborate on the findings except to say that no criminal violations were found and that violations of department policy that were verified "have been appropriately addressed."

The complaint at the center of the investigation was filed in October 2004 by Dean Holloway. His wife at the time, Susan Holloway, is a cousin of Jaramillo's.

Dean Holloway, who provided a copy of his complaint to The Times, alleged that Carona, a married man, first met Susan Holloway when she went to visit Jaramillo at the Sheriff's Department. He alleged that Carona asked her out for drinks in 2001, before the Holloways were married. In 2002, after the Holloways were wed, and a week after she gave birth to their first child, Carona asked her out again, this time inviting her to spend a weekend with him.

Former Orange County sheriff's officials and other sources familiar with department policy said that under broad rules governing conduct, deputies are expected to conduct even their personal lives following the highest standards.

The attorney general's office cannot discipline the sheriff because he is a constitutional officer.

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