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Radio show not funny to Carona

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Times Staff Writers

Attorneys for former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona on Wednesday asked to have his corruption trial moved because they said extensive publicity about the case would make it difficult for him to receive a fair trial in Southern California.

The motion was filed under seal to keep its details secret.

Carona’s attorney, Brian A. Sun, said the motion was spurred in large part by a radio talk show that has been discussing the case daily in a segment called “Taint the Carona Jury Pool.”

John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, hosts of “The John and Ken Show” on KFI-AM (640), have encouraged listeners to lie to get onto Carona’s jury, then vote to convict him. The hosts have also conducted dramatic readings of transcripts of a secretly recorded conversation in which the then-sheriff allegedly discussed covering up evidence that he received cash and gifts from a Newport Beach businessman, who Carona later named assistant sheriff.

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Sun said he wanted to file the motion under seal to avoid creating further publicity about the case.

Carona, his wife, Deborah, and former mistress, Debra V. Hoffman, are accused of selling the power of Carona’s office for tens of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts. Deborah Carona and Hoffman have joined in the request to move the trial, which is now scheduled for Aug. 26.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office and attorneys for the Los Angeles Times are expected to oppose the sealing of the change-of-venue motion.

Historically, judges have been reluctant to move trials from regions where there has been extensive media coverage. But this case is different, one legal authority said.

“Generally, I don’t think these motions have much hope. But with the radio show instructing people how to lie to get on the jury, that’s a more compelling case,” said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in L.A. and a former federal prosecutor.

“An argument against changing venue is it opens a Pandora’s box,” Levenson said. “Then you’re allowing shock jocks to control where cases are tried. So I think the court would be inclined to find some other alternative.”

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Kobylt and Chiampou said Carona’s request to move the trial was an overreaction.

“Presumably the jurors are going to hear the same evidence that we’ve been reading every day,” Chiampou said.

He said moving the trial would not necessarily guarantee a jury pool free of “John and Ken” listeners.

“What about the Internet? The Internet is all over the world,” Chiampou said. “When we find out what town they’re moving the trial to, nothing stops us from moving to the town where the trial is.

“We’ve been known to take road trips.”

Kobylt said he was concerned by the outcomes of several other high-profile trials and wanted to do his part to level the playing field.

“The truth is I don’t trust juries. I don’t trust 12 people who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty,” he said. “We’ve talked to some of the jurors, and they’re insane. There’s a lot of crazy people out there, and many of them end up on juries.”

Carona’s lawyers are awaiting a ruling from U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford on their request to exclude as evidence secret recordings of a conversation that Carona had last year with former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, a wealthy businessman who allegedly gave money and gifts to the then-sheriff.

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Kobylt and Chiampou have been reading those transcripts on air for several weeks and have invited listeners to take turns as well. One recent broadcast included a reading of the transcripts in Hebrew.

“We’re just hoping they all memorize the transcripts by the end of this,” Chiampou said. “I’m getting there.”

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

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