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Former O.C. Sheriff Carona loses bid to get out of prison

A federal judge denies the resentencing request. Carona, doing time in Colorado, still has several years to go for his witness tampering conviction.

April 05, 2013|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times

Former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona will continue serving time in federal prison on a witness tampering conviction after a judge denied a request by the former lawman's attorneys to shorten his sentence.

Attorneys for Carona, 57, who was once hailed as "America's sheriff," argued that a 66-month sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford on a witness tampering conviction should be adjusted because of changes in the law. So far, he has served two years of 5 1/2-year prison sentence.

In a decision made public Friday, Guilford denied the request for resentencing, which could have freed Carona immediately from a prison in Colorado. Guilford said the type of fraud that Carona committed is still valid even though the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed its definition.

Guilford said he focused on Carona's "high position of trust as an elected law enforcement official," according to court documents.

During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Carona, elected in 1998, had abused the powers of his office by accepting secret cash payments, providing campaign contributors with badges and concealed weapons permits and engaging in numerous illicit affairs.

The conviction stemmed from a secretly recorded conversation at a Newport Beach restaurant between Carona and his former assistant sheriff Don Haidl, where Carona attempted to persuade Haidl to lie to a grand jury investigating widespread corruption allegations. Haidl died late last year.

Carona was acquitted on five of the six charges, including conspiracy and mail fraud.

During the sentencing hearing, which Guilford referenced in his opinion, the judge said Carona's misdeeds "weakened the community's trust in law enforcement."

Brian Sun, one of Carona's attorneys, did not comment on the decision. He also declined to say whether Carona would appeal.

Jim Ybarra, an English teacher who served on the jury for Carona's 2009 trial, said he agreed with the judge's decision to deny the resentencing.

Ybarra, 58, who said he has kept the 59-page jury instructions and all his notes, said he thought Carona "got less than he deserved."

"I hope nothing makes it shorter," he said.

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