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California Briefing / SANTA ANA

Bid by Carona's ex-lover denied

July 26, 2008|Christine Hanley

A judge denied a motion Friday by the onetime mistress of former Sheriff Michael S. Carona to disqualify the two prosecutors handling a corruption case against her and Carona.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford found that Debra Hoffman's allegations of prosecutorial misconduct did not "rise to a level warranting" removal of the federal attorneys.

Guilford also ordered prosecutors to provide him with documents that explain why they were not included in a mass recusal of about 250 colleagues from the U.S. attorney's offices in Los Angeles and Santa Ana.

Assistant U.S. Attys. Kenneth Julian and Brett Sagel, who report directly to the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, had offered to provide Guilford with the documents to allay lingering concerns about the recusal issue.

Hoffman's federal public defender, Sylvia Torres-Guillen, argued in court this week that the officewide recusal was put into effect because of relationships between Carona and two chief U.S. attorneys.

Torres-Guillen said a government informant had alleged that Carona had had an affair with Debra W. Yang, the former U.S. attorney for Los Angeles, and that Wayne Gross, then the assistant U.S. attorney in charge of the Santa Ana office, had asked Carona for a recommendation for a judgeship.

Yang has dismissed the allegation, and lawyers on all sides of the case agree it is untrue. Gross, now in private practice, has maintained that he removed himself from the case at the start of the Carona investigation. But prosecutors acknowledged that the allegations helped create an appearance of a conflict that had to be avoided.

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