Carona was acquitted of all but one of the six felony charges against him, which largely accused him of swapping the perks of his office for campaign donations and other financial goodies. Afterward, jurors told The Times that although they didn't consider Carona an innocent man, the best evidence against him involved actions that were outside the statute of limitations. The jury did find Carona guilty of witness tampering, a conviction he plans to appeal.
We're glad Carona had his day in court and received a carefully rendered verdict (despite concerns that a juror felt intimidated). Whatever doubts remain about his guilt, this much is clear: Orange County won. The new sheriff in town, Sandra Hutchens, has been assiduously cleaning up the mess Carona left.
Carona dragged his department through one disgrace after another. He insisted on hiring obviously unqualified supporters for top positions and Sandra Hutchens, handed out weapons permits and powers of arrest as though they were candy. He promoted himself as a reformer of the county jail before an investigation found that deputies there were so intent on avoiding an honest day's work that they invented coded messages for when supervisors were coming. Even after this abhorrent mismanagement led to the killing of an inmate, Carona refused to cooperate with a grand jury investigation.
Various acquittals notwithstanding, Carona has no future in public office. It could be called a happy ending if it weren't for this: He is a smart and personable man who got off to a dramatic start as sheriff by quickly capturing the killer of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. There was talk of him as a candidate for higher office. Now, as a convicted felon with a thoroughly besmirched reputation, he wouldn't be trusted to catch dogs.