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Carona's lawyers seek trial delay

July 11, 2008|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona asked Thursday that his Aug. 26 trial on corruption charges be postponed two months on grounds that prosecutors were "playing games" by not producing witness statements and other investigative records in a timely manner.

In a written motion, the defense team cited 12,000 pages of witness statements turned over by the government in late June, contending it would be a "Herculean task" to review material that identifies new witnesses and new documents, including a three-volume diary kept by former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo.

Prosecutors, responding immediately in their own motion, called the defense arguments "misleading and absurd," noting that at least 7,000 of the pages produced by the government are records of an investigation of Jaramillo by the Orange County district attorney's office that were requested by Carona's lawyers.

In asking U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford to deny a postponement, prosecutors also argued that they were not required under federal court rules to provide witness statements 60 days before trial and had done so only as a matter of convenience.

Furthermore, they said, it was the defense that sought and agreed to the Aug. 26 trial date, after which notices were mailed to prospective jurors.

"The government also notes the resources these defendants have to assist them in preparing their defense," the prosecution's motion said. "Defendant Carona has had no less than six attorneys . . . working on this case of which the government is aware -- no telling how many more are working on the matter."

A hearing on the motion to continue the trial to Oct. 28 is scheduled today.

Carona quit in January after nine years as sheriff to focus on charges that he misused his office in a conspiracy to enrich himself and others including his wife, Deborah, and former mistress, Debra Hoffman. All three have pleaded not guilty.

Also Thursday, the judge quashed a dozen subpoenas served by attorneys representing Carona and Hoffman, finding that the information they seek from the Sheriff's Department, Internal Revenue Service, several banks and other parties is too broad.

In his ruling, Guilford ordered defense attorneys to turn over all documents and records obtained under the subpoenas, which were served without the court's permission from November to February.

"Because defendants did not request leave of the court before issuing the pretrial subpoenas considered here," he wrote, "the court has not received applications addressing the relevancy, admissibility and specificity of the subpoenas. As framed, these subpoenas seek the kind of broad discovery that is not permitted."

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

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