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Judge refuses to let Carona remain free during appeal

May 15, 2009 |  5:29 pm

Mike caronaFormer Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona’s request to remain free while he appeals his 5 1/2-year prison term was denied today.

Federal Court Judge Andrew J. Guilford’s ruling means that Carona -- convicted of trying to obstruct a grand jury investigation into his administration -- must surrender this summer and begin serving his prison sentence.

After a long-running federal investigation, indictment and two-month trial, Carona was acquitted in January of five corruption charges but convicted on a single felony count of witness tampering.

Last month he was sentenced to 66 months and ordered to report to prison July 24.

Carona’s attorneys argued that he should be allowed to remain free on bond as he fights his sentence in appeals court. They plan to argue that incriminating tape recordings of Carona should not have been allowed in the trial.

In today’s ruling, Guilford upheld his original order that Carona surrender shortly after his son’s high school graduation, saying none of the issues defense attorneys raised met the requirements for release pending appeal.

Carona is being allowed to remain free until July, Guilford wrote, because “time is needed to determine the proper prison placement for the Defendant since he is the former county sheriff, and there are difficulties placing him and holding him in a county jail pending placement.”

Carona's attorney said his client was disappointed and would appeal Guilford's ruling.

Carona, once a political rising star who was dubbed “America’s Sheriff” in 2002 during the search for the killer of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, was chastized during sentencing by Guilford, who gave the ex-lawman a half-hour lecture about honesty.

Carona attended a court hearing today, appearing to pay close attention to the proceedings, but said nothing. Guilford released his written opinion this afternoon.

--Tony Barboza