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Want to Know How the Mike Carona Corruption Trial is Going?

While Jeffrey Rawitz—a high-powered Jones Day defense lawyer for indicted ex-Sheriff Mike Carona—spent the day repeatedly asking already (repeatedly) asked and answered questions of Don Haidl, the government's resilient key witness, a back-row juror I've nicknamed "Sam Drucker" (a character on the 1960s TV show Petticoat Junction) fell asleep. For nearly 15 minutes, Drucker's eyes shut tight, his mouth hung opened wide, and his head leaned and bobbed toward his right shoulder. I'd considered entering into a friendly wager with my benchmate Rachanee Srisavasdi of the Orange County Register on whether or not he'd actually drool.

And then . . . BAM!

Drucker's ear touched his shoulder, his head jerked upright and his eyes opened. The look on his face confirmed his realization that, yes, he was still in hell: a Rawitz cross-examination.

I wish I could report that Drucker had missed something important, but he hadn't. Rawitz, over-employing a ham-fisted tactic, wanted the jury in Carona’s corruption trial to understand—no, to really, really, really, really, really understand—that Haidl, a wealthy businessman, kept no records of the bribes he says he paid to Carona (pictured) to gain influence at the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Rawitz demanded to know: Other than you, the sheriff and Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who witnessed you hand over monthly envelopes containing $2,000 in cash bribes?

"It was always done when nobody's around," replied Haidl, who—though unqualified—was named second in command of California's second largest police agency in 1999; he says he gave Carona cash, expensive gifts, free custom-made suits, free meals, free booze, free casino chips, free hotel rooms, stock tips, sent $65,000 to the sheriff's top mistress, secretly paid for full-time campaign employees, funded a plane pilot's harassment of a rival, free use of a yacht for Carona's sexual affairs and—oh, it's good to be OC's top cop—allowed secret access to his luxurious private jets that ferried Carona and his numerous women to vacation destinations!

Rawitz then demanded to know: Where are your records of the cash bribes?

Haidl said, "There was no situation where I wrote [in my records], 'Mike Carona—bribe,' sir."

Rawitz re-asked the question.

"You are trying to tie a document to $100 bills," said Haidl. "It's impossible."

Rawitz re-asked the question.

"The whole point was not to have a trail—to make it untraceable."

Rawitz re-asked the question.

"The whole point was not to correlate the [cash bribe payments] to Mike Carona."

Rawitz re-asked the question.

"I'm not trying to be rude sir. But I've answered your question five times."

Rawitz fired back, “You may have to answer it a sixth time.”

And now, ladies and gentlemen, you know why U.S. Marshals keep sharp knives out of the courtroom and far away from wrists.

(R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly)

Comments (4)

  1. JerryC says:

    I am surprised to hear that the OC Register is even covering the trial.

    I moved out here from New England a dozen years ago and was shocked to find the poor quality of the OC Register. With its obvious right wing bias, it has proved, over and over, that it is nothing but a booster for the comfortable.

    I can recall your coverage, and that of the OC Weekly, of the unfolding scandal that was, and is, Mike Corona. At the same time, the OC Register never flagged in their praise of their Top Cop.

    I suppose these comments come as no surprise to you. However, it is shocking to a relative newcomer to see that the area's daily is such a partisan rag. Truly, they are sub-USA Today or, for that matter, Fox News.

    Since I do not often write these things, there are a couple of other matters that I would like to mention.

    You should have somebody look into what appears to be a concerted effort to not allow the distribution of your paper in Irvine. It used to be that the OC Weekly could be found at many places, like Blockbusters and other such venues. The only place that I can find your paper is at a coffee shop in Woodbridge Plaza but, literally, nowhere else. It really seems to be a concerted effort. Maybe I am wrong, but it smacks of a Chamber of Commerce effort.

    Lastly, could somebody write a piece that explains how the airport effort morphed into this Great Park boondoggle? I mean, they are spending a half a million dollars on a frigging hot air balloon, for the express purpose of...what? Mind you, I am a liberal Democrat and not reflexively against public spending. But, really, what is going on here? Who is the money behind this thing, is it a prid pro quo to somebody for dropping the airport issue? We are talking about a couple of billion dollars here. You, in New England, if they wanted a park, they would plant grass, trees, build a gazeboo and maybe a baseball field. The whole thing would cost, say a couple hundred thousand, at most.

    So, Scott, just what is in the water here that makes public officials so drunk with public money and newspapers so uncurious about it?

  2. Gustavo Arellano says:

    JerryC: I'll answer in part. Years ago, we wrote this piece about Irvine Company head Don Bren that resulted in him pulling ads from our paper and most of Irvine losing its Weekly drop-off points. The lack of papers in Irvine have only been exacerbated by our continuing feud with Larry Agran--in fact, we called the evolution of the boondoggle years ago, in an article written by Anthony Pignataro that I can't find right now.

    As for what's in the water--keep reading the paper!

  3. Denise H says:

    Excellent funny column

  4. legal thoughts says:

    If Jeff Rawitz is such a high power defense attorney member of the firm of Jones Day, with an international presence, then why does Jeff Rawitz use the e-mail jeffrawitz@hotmail.com, as posted on the public California State Bar website at www.calsb.org?

    One would think that an international law firm like Jones Day would do everything possible to protect the privacy rights of its clients and its attorneys.... everyone knows how easily www.hotmail.com accounts can be hacked into. Maybe this is the back up plan to support a mistrial... Rawitz will say someone hacked into his confidential and privileged client e-mails which compromised Carona's right to the fair administration of justice and due process of the law. A word to Mr. Rawitz... remember, someone hacked into Sarah Pallin's email account so using a hotmail e-mail account seems very wreckless to say the least.

    I have also noticed that many of the OC District Attorneys have not been assigned official DA e-mail addresses. If anyone should be concerned about protecting the public's safety, it is the OC District Attorney. Why would any law enforcement/government agency and/or law firm risk privacy breaches? I am not a computer nerd... but it does not take a rocket scientist to understand this serious risk of blowing a very expensive, time-consuming federal trial proceeding, that the taxpayers are paying for, all because Carona's attorney Rawitz does not have a secure e-mail address.

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