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Carona's wife, mistress case dismissed

January 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A federal judge has dismissed charges against the wife and former mistress of ex-Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona. The former sheriff was acquitted of allegations that he took bribes while in office, but he was convicted of witness tampering.It was a bittersweet victory for Deborah Carona, the wife of former Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona, and Debra Hoffman, who prosecutors called the sheriff's former mistress. Mrs. Carona thanked the judge for dismissing the case. She faced one charge of conspiracy.

"My life has been put through hell," said Deborah Carona. "I truly feel that these baseless charges were brought against me so I would be a hostage, that I was basically held prisoner through this whole thing."

Debra Hoffman faced six felony counts, including mail fraud and bank fraud charges. She was emotional afterwards as she admitted that federal prosecutors offered her a deal to get her to testify against the former sheriff. She didn't take that deal.

"They can outspend any average American citizen and they can outspend any one of you," said Hoffman. "I pray for reform for the federal criminal justice system, which is shamefully broken and which seems to now be one of guilty until proven innocent."

In court the feds said that in the interest of justice they asked the court to dismiss the case against the two women.

Michael Carona was convicted nearly two weeks ago of witness tampering in his corruption trial. Federal prosecutors say they want to move forward with that case.

Michael Carona is due back in court in late April for sentencing on the count of witness tampering. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Carona faces anything from probation to 20 years behind bars.