Jury deliberation begins in Carona trial

SANTA ANA, Calif. The man once known as "America's Sheriff" is accused of accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for political favors. /*Michael Carona*/ is facing six counts, including conspiracy and witness tampering.

"I look forward to having my day in court," said Carona in 2007.

Carona has always denied the charges. He never testified at his trial. However, jurors heard hours of audio tape of Carona talking with his former friend, /*Don Haidl*/. The tape was recorded by Haidl as part of a plea deal.

The prosecutor alleged that Carona's lies began in 1998, after receiving at least $30,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Haidl. Carona allegedly received $1,000 each month for four years; including money for his alleged former mistress /*Debra Hoffman*/. In return, prosecutors say Carona made Haidl Assistant Sheriff, despite his lack of law-enforcement experience.

Prosecutors allege the lies continued until 2007, when Carona was heard in recordings trying to make sure he and Haidl got their stories straight about the trail of cash and gifts before talking with the grand jury.

Carona's attorney called Haidl a liar. The defense claimed Haidl was willing to help the government to get a lenient sentence in his own tax case. The defense also said the money mentioned in the case was not a bribe, but related to payments for repairs to a boat Haidl gave to Carona as a gift.

On the audio tape, Haidl told Carona that he was willing to lie about what they did. The prosecutor asked jurors to question why the Orange County Sheriff failed to disagree with the lies. He went on to tell the juror to think about why Carona didn't leave the meeting. The prosecution claimed it was because Haidl and Carona were partners in crime.

The jury, which is made up of 11 men and one woman, will continue deliberating on Friday.

If convicted of all counts, Carona faces up to several years in prison.



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