Cases & Deals

Michael Carona acquitted on five of six counts of indictment charging him with corruption and witness tampering

Clients Carona, Michael S.

After a high-profile two-month jury trial beginning in October 2008, a team of Jones Day lawyers from the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego offices obtained an acquittal for ex-Orange County, California sheriff Michael Carona on five of the six counts of an indictment that charged him with corruption and witness tampering. The verdict shocked courtroom observers and the media, which had portrayed Carona in an extremely negative light and had all but convicted him in the public's eyes. Carona had gained nationwide attention with his aggressive public pursuit of the kidnapper of Samantha Runnion. This led Larry King to dub Carona "America's Sheriff."

The government's central theme was that Carona sold his office to Don Haidl, a former colleague and supporter, in return for cash, lavish gifts, plane rides, expensive clothes, and other personal benefits, including providing financial assistance to his codefendant and girlfriend, Debra Hoffman, and benefits to his wife, Deborah Carona, who was also charged as a coconspirator. Charges against both women were dismissed by the government following the jury's verdict in Carona's trial. The heart of the government's case centered around a series of secret recordings Haidl made of conversations with Carona at the behest of the government prosecutors and the testimony of several cooperating witnesses.

In April 2009, Carona was sentenced to 66 months in custody for the remaining count of witness tampering. The conviction and sentence of Carona are on appeal in the Ninth Circuit. The appeals court will address several issues, including the failure to provide a remedy for prosecutors' ethical violations in devising a bogus grand jury subpoena attachment to aid Haidl in his secret taping of Carona (while he was represented by counsel), a statutory challenge to the government's application of the witness tampering statute, and misconduct on the part of the prosecutors when presenting the case to the grand jury.

United States v. Michael S. Carona, No. SA CR 06-224 (United States District Court for the Central District of California)