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Prosecution says Carona told woman to lie

June 21, 2008|Stuart Pfeifer and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

Former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona instructed an employee to lie to investigators about a sexual relationship she had with him, federal prosecutors alleged in a motion filed Friday.

Prosecutors asked U.S. Dist. Judge Andrew J. Guilford to allow them to call the woman as a witness at Carona's upcoming corruption trial because, they say, she could corroborate a charge that he encouraged another witness to lie to a grand jury.

Carona was indicted in October on charges of public corruption and witness tampering. He is accused of selling the power of his office for tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts and trying to get witnesses to lie about it.

According to the motion by Assistant U.S. Attys. Kenneth Julian and Brett Sagel, Carona instructed the woman in 2005 to deny to Orange County district attorney's office investigators that she and Carona had once had a sexual relationship.

In 2000, prosecutors allege, Carona also told the woman to falsely deny to internal-affairs investigators that then-Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo made inappropriate sexual advances toward her. Carona told the woman he had previously helped Jaramillo concoct a cover story after investigators observed Jaramillo and a woman engaged in a sex act in a county car, according to prosecutors.

Carona is not charged with asking this woman -- who once worked as Jaramillo's secretary -- to lie to investigators. Prosecutors want the judge to allow them to call her as a witness in an attempt to prove that Carona has a propensity for tampering with witnesses.

Carona's lawyer, Jeffrey Rawitz, said the woman has made several conflicting statements, including one in which she denied having sex with Jaramillo or Carona. The defense will ask that Guilford not allow her to testify at Carona's trial, now scheduled for Aug. 26 in Santa Ana.

"This is essentially an end run to try and get otherwise unreliable evidence admitted into evidence at the trial," Rawitz said.

Carona is charged with two counts of witness tampering for allegedly attempting to get former Assistant Sheriff Donald Haidl to lie to a grand jury investigating him. Haidl and Jaramillo have both pleaded guilty to federal charges and are expected to testify against Carona at his trial.

Last summer, prosecutors contend, Haidl secretly recorded a lunch conversation in which he and Carona discussed efforts to conceal a trail of illicit cash and gifts that the former sheriff had received.

Carona resigned in January after serving nine years as Orange County's elected sheriff. Earlier this month, the Board of Supervisors appointed retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Division Chief Sandra Hutchens as the county's 12th sheriff. She was sworn in Thursday.

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

christine.hanley@latimes.com

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