A different view of justice for Carona


Call me twisted, but I love the education former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is getting on what it’s like to be a suspected criminal:

Hey, these law enforcement guys play rough!

Carona has talked plenty tough in the past when he was the one holding the club. But now that he’s wearing the garb of the accused, his worldview seems a bit different.

He’s developed an appreciation for that quaint notion of a defendant’s rights. What he once might have scorned as a palooka working an angle, he now sees as his effort to guarantee an untainted jury pool.


Throw out potentially incriminating evidence on what any cop would call a technicality? Defendant Carona now thinks that is one heck of a peachy idea.

Carona, facing federal charges of corruption while in office, seems especially bothered by conversations secretly recorded by a former assistant sheriff who is cooperating with the U.S. attorney’s office.

Carona’s lawyers asked a federal judge last week not to allow prosecutors to use the conversation as evidence. They also said that the release of selected portions of the conversation have created widespread publicity that might have reached potential jurors.

Even if the judge doesn’t allow the transcripts, potential jurors will be aware of them, Carona’s lawyers argued.

You’ve got to love the righteous indignation from a sheriff who, on the same day a suspect was arrested in 2002 on suspicion of abducting and killing a 5-year-old girl, said he was “100% certain” the man was the killer.

In no way am I comparing the charges against Carona to the heinousness of the other case. They are in different universes of criminality, but the former sheriff bristles at the anyone who already considers him guilty.


And he certainly didn’t want the public hearing excerpts from a guy wearing a secret recording device.

Speaking of which . . .

How low will the feds sink to actually put a wire on a guy in an effort to get incriminating information? In so many words, that’s what Carona’s lawyers have argued, saying that it was improper to wire former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, because it amounted to using a third party to get information from Carona at a time when he was represented by counsel.

Note that his lawyers aren’t arguing that the excerpts from the transcript were forged or that the tape was garbled and unintelligible. Or that Carona was playacting when he discussed paper trails of alleged illegal payments that Haidl made to him. (The sheriff will absolutely love the fact I used “alleged.”)

Nope. Just that it was unethical to wire Haidl to incriminate Carona. And since the conversations should never have been recorded, Carona argues, whatever is on those tapes should be tossed out the window.

That sounds like the “fruits of the poisoned tree” argument that cops routinely condemn when some defense attorney brings it up. Carona no doubt sees it as a cornerstone of jurisprudence.

The selected bits of conversation, which prosecutors played in court, included this exchange:


“On my end, nothing’s traceable. It’s hidden,” Haidl tells Carona, explaining that money he had given the sheriff came from a private safe.

“Well, on my end of it, completely untraceable, completely untraceable,” Carona responds.

Sheriff Carona would have been gleeful if his investigators came back with stuff like that.

Defendant Carona wonders why anyone would believe a rat wearing a wire.

A judge is expected to rule in the next week or so on whether to allow the recorded conversation.

So Carona waits, with much hanging in the balance.

If nothing else, this must be a fascinating experience for him, as he sees how tightly the system can turn the screws on a defendant.

Who knew?


Dana Parsons’ column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at An archive of his recent columns is at