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A Wink, a Prayer and Some Spilt Ink for Mike Carona

You can credit indicted ex-Sheriff Mike Carona (pictured in his old chick magnet outfit) for turning federal Judge Andrew Guilford’s stately 10th-floor Santa Ana courtroom into a bloody, limb-strewn morgue for the once-touted character of “America’s Sheriff.”

So what do Frank Mickadeit and Jeffrey Rawitz find so amusing? They wink, smile and nod at each other so often a stranger might believe he’d witnessed the blossoming of a torrid affair. Their communications are the kind of sneaky glances you’d see between sixth-grade classmates anticipating after-school mischief.

Mickadeit, the Orange County Register columnist, sits near me on a wooden bench in the back with a cluster of other media. Rawitz, a defense lawyer, parks himself at a table next to our indicted ex-top cop—30 feet away from Mickadeit, but close enough to shoot animated facial expressions at each other.

We found out what was so amusing on Friday, when Mickadeit published “Haidl Gets the Grilling Greg Didn’t.” The column portrayed Rawitz as Perry Mason, Don Haidl as a truth-dodging drone for prosecutor Brett Sagel, and Carona . . . well, Mickadeit’s always had a soft spot for him. (Evidence: At a time in 2005 when the sheriff was strenuously dodging other reporters, he invited Mickadeit to announce his re-election plans to the public.) I’m guessing any criminal defendant--but especially Carona--would greatly appreciate a journalist waiting 20 paragraphs to mention him in a story about his case, and then only in passing. Mickadeit’s readers might believe that Haidl is on trial.

Here’s how Mickadeit summed up what happened in court late on Thursday afternoon when the defense got its first shot at Haidl.

“Rawitz has rattled Haidl,” he wrote. “If this were a boxing match, it would be the second round, and Haidl has been knocked down once.”

I was so shocked by the assertion that I read it several times to see if I’d missed a joke. Nope. Other court observers shared my bewilderment. One even said, “What courtroom was Frank sitting in yesterday?”

Let’s set the record straight: Rawitz is a sharp, hard-charging attorney, but his first round of questions—which included embarrassing technical glitches and lengthy, boring stretches of Haidl reading documents—largely focused on tangential issues.

Did the defense lawyer upset Haidl by accusing him of harassing the victim in his son’s six-year-old gang-rape case? Absolutely. Did he get Haidl to admit he’s a rich dude with an income of $300,000-per-month when he was appointed assistant sheriff in 1999? Yep. Did he get Haidl to admit he’d acted while surreptitiously taping Carona for the FBI? Duh. Did he get Haidl to admit that he has a huge interest (a possible reduced sentence for a pending income-tax-evasion conviction) in cooperating with Sagel? Sure.

I don’t know what question/answer Mickadeit thinks “knocked down” Haidl, because nothing has yet come close to knocking the ex-assistant sheriff off his eyewitness and audio-supplemented testimony about Carona’s greed, corruption and efforts to thwart a federal grand jury's probe.

Indeed, the most interesting aspects to questions by both Rawitz and his Jones Day colleague, Brian A. Sun, have been loaded questions—questions that deliver false or unproven facts to juror ears. For example, Rawitz prefaced one inquiry by claiming that Haidl had promised to spend $1 million to defeat District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who chose to prosecute Haidl’s 17-year-old son as an adult rather than send the case to juvenile court.

“That’s absolutely false, sir,” Haidl replied. “That never happened.”

Rawitz wants jurors to believe Haidl is an unrepentant liar, an assertion Mickadeit supplemented in his Monday column. For the sake of argument, let’s say he is. How does that exonerate Carona, the man who took Haidl’s money and expensive gifts and friendship—who even made the used-car salesman an assistant sheriff with full police powers?

But there’s good news for Calamity Mike, a politician who soiled almost everything he touched at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. In the Court of Frank Mickadeit, the government could produce two, four, six or eight more folks from your slimy inner circle to testify against you, and it won’t matter. You’ll always be the innocent guy whose only mistake was unknowingly surrounding yourself with hoodlums. Hey, that’s Rawitz’s line. Wink, wink.

(R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly)

Comments (17)

  1. Karen J says:

    Moxley, your mistake is believing that anyone believes what Frank writes.

  2. Bill says:

    I read that article too and while I wasn't there it seemed really noticeably slanted. This coupled with the apparent interaction between the defense and Mickadeit makes the slant even more apparent.

    I also was thrown off by the title of a previous article "Frank Mickadeit: Haidl gets the grilling Greg didn't (11/14/08)" makes it sound like Haidl Sr. is on trial for something related to the rape case of Haidl JR.

    Both of these articles really just left a bad taste in my mouth which I am sure it did to others. I don't expect Mickadeit to bash Corona 24/7 but come on this is over the top.

    Side note, is there a guesstimate on when this trial will wrap up?

  3. Brooke Arthur says:

    I'd always suspected him of protecting OC's powerful and well connected. He seems to crave their adulation. Perhaps he might wake up and tell the truth about Mike Carona before the end of the trial. Am I being too optimistic?

  4. Dean says:

    Frank Mickadeit is a complete clown. I’m sick of reporters that favor some other clown and instead of reporting the events they put their personal BS in the article. Dave Lopez is another Carona lover. He didn’t want to hear anything negative about Carona before the indictment. Scott I think you could be on to something re: Frank and a torrid affair with men. Last year I sent an email pleading him to shave that stupid George Michael look off his face or remove his picture so I could read the articles. He didn’t respond but did shave a few months later…

  5. David Zenger says:

    Unfortunately Mickadeit seems to identify with the OC GOP high rollers. Folks like Mike Schroeder ply him with expensive scotch and good cigars - and he operates like a Carona press agent. That's okay if you're a shameless blog-flak. But it's pretty pathetic for someone calling himself a journalist.

    He does call himself a reporter, doesn't he?

  6. SB in Newport Beach says:

    Thank you OC Weekly for telling the truth

  7. AGOURA JOE says:


  8. BIG POLITICS says:

    It is obvious that Mickadeit and possibly the OC Register have been hired by Carona's defense team and/or have been promised SCOOPS and possibly free get out of jail cards, if they sway their reporting favoring Carona. It amazes me that all this corruption in the OC Sheriff's Department was going on for years BUT attorneys with a fiduciary duty to advise Carona, i.e., Michael J. Schroeder, Anthony Rackauckas, County Counsel for the County of Orange and the various attorneys representing the County in litigation, never felt compelled to inform Carona that he was breaking the laws of the land as an elected government official.

    This tells those in the OC one thing!!!! It is not just Carona and the OC Sheriff's Department that have created public corruption and compromised the safety of children and adults in the OC. They are all in this together, with many many many more attorneys advising on corrupt deals who continue to build their financial portfolios. To the honest, hard working and dedicated law enforcement officials still protecting the public and abiding to the laws of the land, we are sorry you have to take the hit for corrupt elected officials. The public appreciates you and the truth will come out.

    To the infamous Mickadeit and the OC Register: As the largest publication in the County of Orange, it is very difficult to understand why you are part of the inner circle of OC Republican politics. You have a duty to inform the public fairly and without favortism. Please ask Mickadeit to stop acting as if there is bias in reporting within the management of the OC Register. No one is irreplaceable Mickadeit..... try not to forget that as you name drop and play hopscotch with big politics, for self-serving gain.

  9. POSSIBLE says:

    There is always the possibility that attorney Rawitz is working with Mickadeit to build a mis-trial case when Carona is found guilty.

    No law firm donates millions of dollars in defense funds unless there is light at the end of the trial tunnel... especially in today's economy.

  10. f frank says:

    Frank and his fans try to make him out to be like an old-time city columnist, but Royko, Caen--shit, even Steve Lopez--but the fact is that the poor Lompoc boy is too awestruck by the money the GOP flashes in front of him to ever report anything else than journalistic fellatio. Give 'em hell, Moxley.

  11. Bob Squalonero says:

    Speaking of "Dickadeit"......

    This may be OT, but when I picked up the Sunday, 11/16/08 edition of the Reg (for "comics & coupons"), you can imagine my surprise, when I found out that another OC Weekly fav, Gordon "Dildow" (i.e., Dillow), was leaving the Reg!

    Was anything mentioned by you folks about his departure?

  12. Gustavo Arellano says:

    Bob: You haven't read the Weekly this week, have you?

  13. Bob Squalonero says:

    Gustavo: Is it against the law to NOT read the OC Weekly every once in a while?

  14. Bob Squalonero says:

    Besides, as a former L.A. County resident, I've been spending a little time catching up with what "sus hermanos/hermanas" having been saying over @ L.A. Weekly.

  15. HEH BOB says:

    If you don't read the OC Weekly, then you will not get important information that other news publications refuse to print or research.

    Depending on the OC Register for anything substantial nowadays, is an absolute joke. Especially with Mickadeit at the trial playing goo goo eyes with Rawitz.

  16. Bonnie Russell says:

    Repeated slams against OC Register columnist, Frank Mickadeit have left me just a tad confused.

    Do readers such as Dean, David Zenger and others not realize there is a difference between a reporter and a columnist? I mean, seriously folks, check your dictionaries. There is a big difference.

    As for being in the "inner circle" of Republicans - well, I confess that made me laugh out loud.

    It's impossible to turn around in Orange County, a county which prides itself as being "the most Republican county in the nation" without bumping into an army of Republican high rollers and their ickier, smug Republican pr mavens.

    Especially since the DA's office is crawling with them.

  17. DH says:

    All you clown’s who re-elected Carona for a 3rd term pay attention. Next time read the OC Weekly. Next time pay attention!!! I personally handled this situation with the 3 stooges “Joe Cavallo, Mike Carona, and George Jaramillo. It started with George who was my wife’s cousin. In 2004 I emailed George and threatened to disclose all the adultery and illegal cash gifts. In 2005 I went to Internal Affairs to disclose BS on Mike with my wife and Mike calling her to hang out in San Francisco for sex. Then he tried to threaten me. I then went to the media and caused Mike to threaten Joe Cavallo who was my wife’s attorney. I told Cavallo that I would walk into a furnace with a gas suit before I would let his money or threats scare me. The rest is history. I used my intellect to make these 3 stooges fight with each other and bring themselves down. It worked!!! Never under estimate anyone… DH

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