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Carona gets 5.5 years in prison

Must pay $125,000 fine and serve 2 years probation after prison release
April 27, 2009 8:37:18 AM PDT
Former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona has been sentenced to 5½ years in prison for witness tampering. U.S. District Judge Andrew J. Guilford sentenced Carona on Monday during a hearing in which the disgraced ex-lawman thanked him for the opportunity to fight the charges against him.

Carona was indicted on sweeping public corruption charges in October 2007 and stepped down from the nation's fifth-largest sheriff's department three months later. A central portion of the case were allegations that Carona solicited the help of a millionaire businessman to launder at least $30,000 in campaign contributions.

A jury rejected the heart of the case and convicted Carona of a single count of witness tampering.

Carona was acquitted of five other charges related to corruption charges.

Federal probation officers recommended 6.5 years in prison for Carona.

The former Sheriff has made his own plea to the judge in a letter, expressing that he has been humiliated, humbled and financially ruined by this case.

Carona's letter was one of dozens filed by people requesting that he not serve prison time. Supporters asked the judge to consider Carona's entire public service record, especially his work with at-risk and missing children.

The mother of 5-year-old murder victim Samantha Runion wrote one of the letters, telling the judge that Carona went above and beyond the call of duty in the days and weeks following her daughter's kidnapping and murder in the summer of 2002.

Carona was convicted of witness tampering after the jury heard a taped conversation he had with businessman Don Haidl, in which in pressed Haidl to withhold information about cash and gifts exchanged between the two.

The defense has requested that if Carona gets prison time, that the sentence be suspended while they have time to appeal the conviction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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