Wiretaps show ex-Sheriff Carona plotting testimony

The Sacramento Bee reports:

Former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona was caught on a wiretap plotting with a former top assistant to lie to a grand jury investigating him for public corruption, according to transcripts filed Friday by federal prosecutors.

Portions of an Aug. 13, 2007 conversation between Carona and former assistant sheriff Don Haidl show the two men discussing cash and gifts Carona received from Haidl and what they would do if other witnesses testified against them.

At the time, Haidl had already pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in the probe and was secretly cooperating with the government.

Prosecutors said the transcript shows Carona “admitted to receiving cash and gifts from Haidl and made statements to further an ongoing plan to obstruct justice, specifically the then-pending grand jury investigations.”

Carona’s attorney, Dean Steward, did not immediately return phone calls and an e-mail seeking comment.

Carona, 52, is accused of pocketing nearly $700,000 in bribes and kickbacks during his nine years at the helm of the nation’s fifth-largest sheriff’s department. He has pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy, three counts of mail fraud and two counts of witness tampering.

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