Gregory Haidl, whose arrest and conviction in a high-profile sexual assault case has proved pivotal in the undoing of former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona and the unraveling of his inner circle, will be set free from prison today.
His homecoming will be bittersweet, tempered by the fact that he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. And he returns with his father emerging as a chief witness in the federal corruption case against Carona, who is accused of peddling access to his office for tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, January 29, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Sexual assault victim: An article in Saturday's California section about the release of Gregory Haidl, son of a former Orange County assistant sheriff, listed the age of his accuser as 19 at the time of the attack. She was 16.
Don Haidl, through his attorney Mark Byrne, released a statement on behalf of his family, saying his son "was a model prisoner" who took advantage of educational and vocational programs at Pleasant Valley State Prison in Coalinga.
"Now he wants to lead a productive and quiet life as a law-abiding citizen," Byrne said on behalf of the elder Haidl.
The victim of the July 2002 sexual assault, identified in court proceedings only as Jane Doe, had no comment on Haidl's release, said her attorney, Sheldon Lodmer. The woman has reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit against Haidl and his co-defendants, and is "coming along fine" while working and going to school, Lodmer said.
Haidl, 22, was being released early from his six-year term because of credit for good behavior and for time served in an Orange County jail before he was convicted, state corrections spokesman Bill Sessa said.
Because of the nature of his conviction and his criminal history, Haidl is considered a high-control parolee, a category that warrants the highest level of supervision, Sessa said. Haidl is scheduled to serve three years of parole but could be released from supervision earlier if he stays out of trouble, Sessa said.
Haidl and two friends were convicted in 2005, after two sensational trials, of sexually assaulting Doe, who was 19 at the time of the attack.
The case gained notoriety because of a lurid videotape that captured the attack at the Newport Beach home of Don Haidl, and aggressive efforts by defense attorneys to paint the accuser as a would-be porn star.
The son's prosecution fractured what were once tight bonds between Carona, Don Haidl and his other handpicked assistant, George Jaramillo, marking the beginning of the end of the sheriff's reign.
Jaramillo, once seen as Carona's likely successor, was accused of intervening in the Newport Beach police investigation of the assault and of trying get the younger Haidl preferential treatment in a marijuana case. He was fired by Carona in early 2004 and was later sentenced to a year in jail for misusing department resources.
The elder Haidl, who helped bankroll Carona's first campaign, gave up the assistant sheriff's post in 2004 to concentrate on his son's legal troubles. He was convinced that his position had subjected his son to tougher treatment by publicity-minded prosecutors and the media.
While his son was in prison, Don Haidl was accused by federal prosecutors of filing a false income tax return in a scheme that tapped several of his corporate entities to pay the legal bills racked up by his son and his son's co-defendants.
Faced with those charges, he agreed to cooperate in the prosecution of Carona. Don Haidl faces up to three years in prison, but prosecutors have said they would recommend leniency if he continues to help in the investigation and testifies truthfully.
Jaramillo, released late last year from his jail sentence, has also pleaded guilty to tax charges and is cooperating with authorities in the case against Carona.