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Media oppose Carona request

May 02, 2008|Stuart Pfeifer and Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writers

Former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona's request to file a secret motion to move his corruption trial out of Southern California violates the 1st Amendment's free-press protection, a media attorney argued Thursday.

Carona's attorneys have asked U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford to keep their motion to move the trial sealed because releasing it would create additional inflammatory publicity about the case.

The motion reportedly contends that Carona cannot receive a fair trial in Southern California because of a daily radio segment called "Taint the Jury," in which the hosts of KFI's "John and Ken Show" urge listeners to convict Carona -- if they end up on his jury. The hosts have instructed listeners to deny in court that they listen to the show.

An attorney representing The Times and the Orange County Register argued Thursday that the motion to move the trial should be made available to the public. If the motion remains sealed, it will be available only to the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys but not the public or media.

Defense attorney Brian A. Sun told Guilford that he filed the motion under seal last month because he was afraid it would "add fuel to the fire" and provide the radio hosts with additional material. He said the judge should keep the motion sealed until he rules on it.

Alonzo Wickers, the newspapers' attorney, said keeping the motion under seal is a "serious infringement" of the 1st Amendment.

"When there is an elected official in court facing corruption charges, that is the time there is the greatest need for public access to the courts," Wickers told the judge.

Guilford did not issue a ruling Thursday.

The judge also considered a motion Thursday to reject a subpoena that Carona's attorneys sent to the Orange County district attorney's office for investigative records about two assistant sheriffs expected to testify against Carona at his Aug. 26 trial.

Officials with the district attorney's office told a federal judge Thursday that they would have difficulty complying with Carona's request because it would require them to produce 20,000 to 30,000 pages of records.

The subpoena seeks records about the office's prosecution of former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo and Gregory Haidl, the son of former Assistant Sheriff Donald Haidl.

Orange County Assistant Dist. Atty. Kevin Haskins told Guilford the request was too broad and "appears to be, at least in the people's view, a fishing expedition."

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

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