SANTA ANA – Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona and his wife Debbie Carona were arraigned today at the Ronald Reagan Federal Court House on multiple felony counts issued by a federal grand jury last week.
The prosecution attorneys Brett Sagel and Ken Julian appeared briefly before reporters after the arraignment. Sagel stated that the Carona’s had been arraigned on the Grand Jury indictment. “The U.S. Attorney’s office is looking forward to litigating this matter,” said Brett Sagel. He then directed all further questions to the spokesman for the U. S. Attorney of the Central District of California, in Los Angeles.
Later Sheriff Mike Carona and Debbie Carona were escorted to a waiting SUV by Federal Marshals. Carona refused to answer any questions other than to tell reporters that their attorneys would be answering questions shortly. Moments later Sheriff Carona’s criminal attorney Dean Steward and his wife’s attorney Dave Wiechert spoke with reporters.
Dean Steward explained the the Carona’s surrendered to the federal arrest warrant this morning and that they were then placed in a holding cell until their arraignment. Both Sheriff Carona and his wife were handcuffed while in custody which is standard procedure for cases where an arrest warrant is issued. Steward stated that the arrest warrant was highly unusual and unwarranted due to the fact that neither Sheriff Carona or his wife are flight risks. “A summons could have been issued and the the Sheriff and his wife would have surrendered,” Steward said. “an arrest warrant was not needed.”
Steward further claimed that the issuance of the arrest warrant was a message from prosecutors to the Sheriff that he and his wife should expect harsh treatment from federal authorities in an effort to intimidate them. Steward and Wiechert stated that the arrest warrant and the resulting process was grandstanding and excessive in light of the prosecution’s own recommendation for bail in the amount of $20,000 a piece.
Steward was asked about the prosecution’s demand that Carona surrender his gun. Steward explained that in light of the numerous death threats made against Carona and his family over his past 9 plus years as Sheriff such a request would place Carona and his family in danger requiring 24 hour security protection. “This was just one more example of the prosecution overstating its case,” Steward said. Judge Robert Block denied the prosecutions request but made it clear that the Carona’s should have no contact with witnesses in this matter. The Carona’s were ordered by Judge Block to submit to a mandatory psychiatric evaluation, which is standard in these types of federal cases.
Both Steward and Dean indicated that they expect it to take more than six months for the case to come to trial due to the shear volume of information collected by the prosecution over the 3 year period of their investigation. “There are tens of thousands of documents that need to be reviewed under discovery in order to prepare for trial,” Steward said.
Steward reiterated that “Sheriff Carona will absolutely not resign from office. He is so anxious to respond to these charges that we have to hold him back. Steward was asked how Carona was paying for his defense. “that has not been determined as yet; Steward said. “Shreiff Carona will not be asking the County to pay his defense costs.”
When asked about Sheriff Carona’s demeanor Steward stated; “the Sheriff was somber and attentive in court and angry and embarrassed by the indictment and the resulting media attention.”
Weichert explained that the Grand Jury process is one sided where the prosecution is permitted to lodge their complaints without rebuttal from the defendant. An indictment does not indicate guilt or innocence, that is determined at trail. The next step will be next week when Carona and his wife Debbie appear again before Judge Block to plead not guilty and have the trial judge assigned to the case.