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California Briefing / Santa Ana

Carona to remain free on bail during appeal

July 28, 2009|Tami Abdollah

Convicted former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona will remain free on bail while the U.S. 9th Circuit considers his appeal, under a ruling issued Monday.

Carona, 53, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford to begin serving a 5 1/2 -year prison term Friday, but he was not required to surrender before the higher court ruled on his appeal.

The 9th Circuit determined Carona was "not likely to flee or to pose a danger to the safety of any other person."

The court also said Carona raises substantial questions of law or fact that are "likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, or a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment."

Judges William C. Canby, Sidney R. Thomas and Sandra S. Ikuta issued the ruling.

The appeal centers on two points: that prosecutors violated a state law forbidding opposing lawyers to contact someone in a case who is represented by a lawyer; and that Carona was charged under the wrong statute for obstruction of justice, Carona's attorneys said.

Carona's attorneys contend that prosecutors violated the rule when they sent then-Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, a key prosecution witness, equipped with a recording device to meet with Carona.

Carona, once dubbed "America's sheriff," was convicted in January of witness tampering and acquitted of five other criminal counts.

-- Tami Abdollah

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