Carona in 2002
May 23, 1955 |
Santa Monica, California
|Criminal charge||Witness tampering|
|Criminal penalty||imprisonment of 66 months|
|Criminal status||Incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood|
|Conviction(s)||16 January 2009|
Michael S. "Mike" Carona (born May 23, 1955) is a convicted felon and former Sheriff-Coroner of Orange County, California. The Sheriff was the elected head of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. He gained national prominence during the hunt for the killer of Samantha Runnion. After the quick capture of her murderer, Alejandro Avila, late night television host Larry King dubbed him "America's Sheriff" during an interview.
In late 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Carona, his wife, and his alleged longtime mistress on corruption charges. He resigned effective January 14, 2008, and was convicted on one count of witness tampering, a year later. He was sentenced to 66 months in prison. On January 25, 2011 the sheriff turned himself in to a federal prison in Colorado to start serving time on the conviction.
Born in Santa Monica, California; Carona holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Management from the University of Redlands and two Master of Arts degrees in Management from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and the University of Redlands. Carona graduated from the OCSD training academy in 1976. He was assigned to the County Marshal's Department, where he worked as a deputy for 12 years.
Carona identifies with his Sicilian heritage, having explicitly noted it in his biography on the Orange County Sheriff's Department website. He became a lodge member of the Order of the Sons of Italy in 1999. He is also a member of Mensa.
In 1988, at the age 33, Carona was appointed as the Marshal of Orange County. After 10 years as Marshal, Carona was elected by popular vote as the Sheriff of Orange County in 1998. Carona ran unopposed during his re-election campaign in 2002 and began his second term in 2003.
In 2003, President George W. Bush appointed Michael Carona to the federal Emergency Response Senior Advisory Committee on Homeland Security. On November 15, 2007, the Department of Homeland Security asked for, and received, Carona's resignation from the task force, citing distractions due to the federal charges he was facing.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Carona as a commissioner in the California State Athletic Commission in September 2004, citing such achievements as his 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo. He remained there until August 2005.
On June 6, 2006, Carona was elected to a third term as Sheriff. Carona put one of his opponents, Bill Hunt, on administrative leave a few days later. (Hunt was the only one of his opponents who was an employee of OCSD.) Six months later, Carona announced the demotion of Hunt to a rank just above entry-level. Hunt opted to retire instead.
Federal indictment and trial
On October 30, 2007, the Los Angeles Times reported that Carona had been indicted on federal corruption charges, alleging that he used his office for personal financial gain and urged a former associate, former Assistant Sheriff Donald Haidl, to testify falsely before a grand jury. Federal prosecutors also charged him with instructing an employee in 2005 to lie to investigators about a sexual relationship she had with him as further evidence of tampering with witnesses. The indictment alleged that Carona received gifts including a boat, boxing tickets, and over $112,000 in cash in illegal, unreported gifts. Were he to have been convicted on all counts, Carona could have received 105 years in prison. In the Federal Indictment Prosecutors alluded to extramarital affairs titillating the media. A four-part Full Disclosure Network Emmy-nominated TV series (http://www.fulldisclosure.net/?s=carona&submit=) featured an exclusive interview with Sheriff Carona immediately following his arraignment and focused on prosecutor tactics and federal sentencing procedures.
His trial was initially scheduled to begin on August 26, 2008, in Santa Ana. Although his attorneys had asked for the trial to be delayed an additional two months, the trial was delayed to October 28 because the judge said the case was "so unusual and complex". Carona pleaded not guilty to all charges and claimed he would be vindicated at the trial.
The trial relied prominently on the testimony of Donald Haidl, a former partner of Carona. He has said, "Carona's political team developed 'the friend's list' through which Carona authorized reserve deputy badges in exchange for $1,000 campaign donations." It also features Carona saying of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas "He just wants to take me out. He thinks I'm weak." The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 12,000 pages of witness statements had been turned over by the government and over 100 witness may be called by the prosecution.
Carona announced on January 14, 2008, his resignation from the sheriff's post so as to better concentrate on his defense. Carona was replaced on an interim basis by Assistant Sheriff Jack Anderson and then replaced permanently by retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Division Chief Sandra Hutchens as the county's 12th sheriff.
On January 16, 2009, a federal jury convicted Carona of a single count of witness tampering, and acquitted him of charges of mail fraud, conspiracy, and another count of witness tampering. He could have faced up to twenty years in prison. On April 27, 2009 Carona was sentenced to 66 months in prison.
On July 12, 2010, it was revealed that Carona received over $215,000 in pension checks the previous year, despite his felony conviction, as the county's retirement system faces a massive shortfall totaling $3.7 billion unfunded liabilities. He is one of approximately 400 retired Orange County public servants who received more than $100,000 in benefits during 2009. (Also on the list of those receiving extra-large pension checks is former treasurer-tax collector Robert Citron, whose investments, which were made while consulting psychics and astrologers, led Orange County into bankruptcy in 1994.)
On Tuesday January 25, 2011, Carona turned himself in to serve his sentence at Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood, in Colorado, where he will serve five years and six months. Carona's "actual or projected" release date is November 8, 2015.
- "Ex-Calif. sheriff surrenders to begin prison term". Associated Press. January 25, 2011.
- "They're Accomplished, They're Famous, and They're MENSANS". Mensa Bulletin (American Mensa) (476): p. 31. July 2004. ISSN 0025-9543.
- Santana, Norberto; Tony Saavedra (2007-11-15). "Sheriff forced to quit Homeland Security Task Force". The Orange County Register.
- fourth Grand Jury indictment, United States v. Corona
- Pfeifer, Stuart (2008-06-21). "Carona told sheriff's employee to deny they had sex, prosecutors allege". Los Angeles Times.
- Pfeifer, Stuart (2008-04-14). "Carona's trial is delayed 2 months". Los Angeles Times.
- Hanley, Christine (July 11, 2008). "Lawyers for ex-O.C. Sheriff Carona seek delay of trial". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- SRISAVASDI, RACHANEE (July 18, 2008). "Carona trial pushed back to October". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- Welborn, Larry (July 9, 2008). "Carona was a paranoid egomaniac, former friend tells FBI". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- Hanley, Christine (July 15, 2008). "'Death spiral' of relationship between former O.C. Sheriff Carona and Dist. Atty. Rackauckas is described on secret tapes". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
- Hanley, Christine (July 12, 2008). "Over 100 may testify against former Orange County Sheriff Carona". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-07-12.
- Associated Press (2008-01-14). "Sheriff Mike Carona Announces Retirement".
- Los Angeles Times (2009-01-16). "Ex-O.C. Sheriff Carona guilty on 1 count, cleared on 5".
- "L.A. Now". Los Angeles Times. April 27, 2009.
- Martinez, Edecio (July 12, 2010). "Disgraced Sheriff's Pension $215,000 After Witness Tampering Conviction". CBS News.
- Martinez, Michael and Irving Last. "Convicted California lawman, dubbed 'America's Sheriff,' enters prison." CNN. January 25, 2011. Retrieved on January 25, 2011.
- "Inmate Locator - Michael S. Carona." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 25, 2011.
- OC Weekly article, "They Got the Sheriff", Nov. 1, 2007
- OC Register article, "Carona says he'll be vindicated: 'I know the truth'", Jan 14, 2008