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April 27, 2009

"America's Sheriff" gets more than 5 years in the federal pen despite acquittals

Over the weekend, I noted here the interesting issues surrounding today's sentencing of the former sheriff of Orange County, Mike Carona.  Here is the basic AP report on the proceedings:

A former Southern California sheriff has been sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison for tampering with a witness in his public corruption case.  U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford sentenced Michael Carona on Monday near the 6 1/2-year term that probation officials had recommended....

Carona was indicted on sweeping public corruption charges in 2007 and stepped down from the nation's fifth-largest sheriff's department.  In January, the jury rejected the heart of the case and convicted Carona of a single count of witness tampering. 

And here is how a local weekly characterizes what happened during the sentencing, which highlights how acquitted conduct realities played a role in these proceedings:

Once dubbed "America's Sheriff," Mike Carona was sentenced this afternoon to 66 months behind bars, two years probation after he serves the prison time and a $125,000 fine for attempting to sabotage a grand jury investigation into abuse of power and bribery at the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford said during his sentencing that he didn't understand the "unrestrained celebrations" after Carona's guilty verdict, in which Carona was cleared of several other corruption charges. In January, a cheerfully weepy Carona stood outside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse and declared that God, working through an Orange County jury, had provided him "a miracle" and "vindicated" him of any criminal conduct.

"A wrong message was sent regarding respect for the law and the jury system," said Guilford. "Carona has given no indication he wouldn't ask someone again to lie." Carona's attorney, Jeffrey Rawitz, took the blame today for the celebrations, calling them a result of his own lack of experience as a criminal defense lawyer. "I'm responsible for that.  We thought he was going to be convicted," Rawitz told the judge.... "I was not experienced enough as a criminal defense lawyer. I should have said, 'Keep your mouth shut.' But that relates to me, not Mr. Carona, because I didn't explain to him that he was exposed to these numbers."

Though Carona had sought a much shorter term, federal prosecutors were asking for nine years.  Thus, among other things, this case provides another example of the post-Booker tendency of judges to "split the difference" in challenging sentencing cases.

April 27, 2009 at 09:18 PM | Permalink

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Posted by: Term Papers | Mar 12, 2010 12:32:38 AM

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