Former O.C. Sheriff Mike Carona will remain in prison

Former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona and his wife, Deborah, arrive at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Santa Ana during his trial in 2009.
(Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)

A federal judge has denied a request that Orange County’s former sheriff be re-sentenced, a move that will keep him incarcerated in a Colorado prison on a corruption-related conviction for about three more years.

Attoneys for Michael S. Carona argued in court this week that the 66-month sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Andrew Guilford on a witness tampering charge should be adjusted because of changes in the law.

Carona’s conviction was based in part on testimony from former Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl, who secretly recorded a conversation in which Carona asked him to lie to a grand jury investigating suspected wrongdoing in the department. Haidl died this year.


Prosecutors had alleged in a 2009 trial that Carona had accepted secret cash payments, had numerous illicit sexual affairs and provided campaign contributors with badges and concealed weapons permits.

But the former sheriff was acquitted on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud and one count of witness tampering and was convicted on a single count of witness tampering.

In a decision made public Friday, Guilford denied the request for resentencing, which would have essentially freed Carona.

Guilford said that the type of fraud that Carona committed is still valid even after the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the definition of a statute used to convict people of corruption.

The judge said he focused on Carona’s “high position of trust as an elected law enforcement official,” according to court documents.

He added that Carona’s attempt to persuade Haidl to lie to a grand jury “weakened the community’s trust in law enforcement.”

Carona began his 5 ½-year sentence at a federal prison in Colorado in January 2011. One of his fellow inmates is former Enron Chief Executive Jeffrey K. Skilling.

Brian Sun, one of Carona’s attorneys, did not comment on the decision. He also declined to say whether Carona will appeal.


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Twitter: @nicolesantacruz