Handcuffed OC sheriff goes to court

first_imgCRIME: Carona, known from Runnion case, is accused of corruption. By Gillian Flaccus The Associated Press Five years ago, Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona became an overnight sensation when he looked into the cameras and told a 5-year- old’s murderer, “Don’t sleep. Don’t eat. We’re coming after you.” He and his wife, Deborah, held hands as they raced to a waiting SUV and sped off without comment. He has turned over his passport, but the magistrate denied a prosecution request to confiscate his firearm. Also charged are his wife and mistress, who is an attorney; both appeared in handcuffs with Carona on Wednesday. Two former assistant sheriffs already pleaded guilty to lesser counts in exchange for their help building a case against Carona. David Wiechert, an attorney for Carona’s wife, said he believed his client was included in the indictment to put pressure on her husband. A public defender assigned to Debra Victoria Hoffman, identified as Carona’s mistress in court papers, did not speak with reporters at the hearing. An after-hours call to her office was not immediately returned. Prosecutors accuse Carona and others of collecting $350,000 in everything from payments, loans, a boat, vacation expenses, watches, ringside boxing tickets and luxury box seats to the World Series playoffs. Carona has denied the charges – he faces seven counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and witness tampering – and vowed to remain in office. “He’s so anxious to fight these charges that we have to hold him back,” said Carona’s attorney, H. Dean Steward. “He’s angry. He didn’t want to go through this today and he’s embarrassed.” Steward maintained that federal authorities could have allowed his client to avoid being detained in a cell and appearing in court with handcuffs, but they chose not to for symbolic reasons. “They were trying to send him a message: … `You did something very bad, we gotcha,”‘ Steward said. “If you want to play it that way, we’re ready.” Meanwhile, some local officials called for Carona’s ouster. Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach wants Carona to resign so the region’s governing board can name an interim sheriff until next year’s election. Corona gained national attention during the 2002 investigation into the kidnapping and murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion. CNN’s Larry King called him “America’s Sheriff,” a nickname that appears on Carona’s official biography.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.What Carona was allegedly doing off-camera, however, is now a bigger story – one that could put him in prison for years and end dreams of a high-profile political career. Carona appeared in federal court Wednesday on corruption charges in an alleged conspiracy to enrich himself, his wife and mistress by accepting cash and gifts in exchange for political favors. Wearing handcuffs, the head of the nation’s fifth largest sheriff’s department listened quietly and responded, “Yes, Sir,” when a magistrate asked if he understood the charges. Carona did not enter a plea, although his attorney said outside court he would plead not guilty to all charges at a hearing Monday. After surrendering to federal authorities Wednesday morning and being held in a cell several hours, he was released later in the day on $20,000 bond. last_img