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Carona asks a judge to dismiss four charges

Times Staff Writers

Attorneys for former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona filed a motion Wednesday asking a judge to dismiss most of the charges against him, alleging federal prosecutors had no jurisdiction in the case.

The motion contends that California’s Fair Political Practices Commission adequately regulates the acceptance of gifts by elected officials -- the basis for most of the charges against Carona -- so the U.S. attorney’s office should not be allowed to prosecute him.

The attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford to dismiss one count of conspiracy and three counts of mail fraud, a step that would leave two witness-tampering charges against Carona.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment on the motion, saying: “We will file our response in court.”

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Guilford is scheduled to consider the motion at a March 14 hearing.

The witness-tampering charges relate to secretly recorded conversations Carona had with former Assistant Sheriff Donald Haidl during which he allegedly told Haidl to provide false statements to a grand jury about gifts he gave the former sheriff.

Carona’s lawyers have already filed a motion to have those recordings excluded as evidence, a step that probably would result in the dismissal of those charges.

Carona, his wife and his former mistress were indicted last year in the corruption case, which accused him of selling his office for cash, gifts and favors.

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Carona alleged in Wednesday’s motion that the only way federal prosecutors could find jurisdiction was to allege that he mailed fraudulent disclosure forms to Sacramento related to his position on the California Commission on Criminal Justice. It is a federal crime to send fraudulent documents through the U.S. mail.

Prosecutors contend that Carona failed to list gifts he had received from Haidl on his conflict-of-interest disclosure forms. The forms that Carona filed for his job as sheriff were hand-delivered to the Orange County clerk’s office in Santa Ana, so U.S. mail was not used. Prosecutors instead targeted his mailings to Sacramento.

“When federal jurisdiction hangs by such a slender thread and the federal interest is so weak, the courts should be especially reluctant to permit the federal government to [prosecute] local elected officials,” Carona’s lawyers asserted in the motion.

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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christine hanley@latimes.com


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