|Sheriff Carona at the height of his power|
Two years into his 66-month prison sentence, ex-Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona hoped this week that a federal judge would reduce his punishment in the aftermath of a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving bribery and honest service corruption cases.
But today inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford issued a three-page ruling that declared Carona's arguments meritless and left the punishment intact.
"[I] specifically made a factual finding in 2009 and today again make such a finding that [Carona's] crime involved instances of honest services fraud of the type that survived the Supreme Court's limitations in Skilling v. United States," Guilford wrote.
The judge went further, adding that even if the Skilling case had applied he would still declare the 66-month sentence appropriate given the flagrant abuse of power.
"[Carona] was the highest elected officer in Orange County," Guilford declared at the 2009 sentencing hearing. "And with that, of course, came power. That's the kind of power that sheriffs have, and that's the kind of power sheriffs should have, that's the kind of power sheriffs must have, but that's the kind of power sheriffs can only have if we are vigilant in upholding the integrity of the office."
To those potent words, the judge added today, "Skilling has not changed this focus. The Court finds that the defendant's 66-month sentence would be amply justified under all the [sentencing factors]' even if the guideline ranges were modified."
With the assistance of the FBI and the IRS Criminal Division, two U.S. Department of Justice prosecutors--Brett Sagel and Ken Julian--proved during a three-month trial that Carona, once the most powerful Republican politician in Southern California, repeatedly lobbied a witness to perjury himself if called to testify at a federal grand jury investigating the sheriff's acceptance of bribes while running the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Guilford's sentencing speech was historic because it firmly held the ex-sheriff accountable for his criminal conduct in a county where previous judges (at all levels) have largely ignored law enforcement corruption.
Carona's home nowadays is a federal prison in Colorado, but, thanks to a ridiculously generous public employee benefit system, the 57-year-old convict continues to collect more than $20,000 a month in taxpayer-funded, pension pay--and will do so (plus cost of living increases) for the rest of his life.