The OC sheriff saga — already in farce mode

Really, this couldn’t get any more ridiculous now than it already has been. And it has.

As I mentioned back on Halloween, current OC County Sheriff Michael Carona — an elected post, it’s important to note — was indicted for all sorts of fun things. The last few days have seen a bit of political theater, including the arraignment of Carona, his wife and his mistress all at once, and in handcuffs at that, a variety of spluttering editorials and condemnations from people who should have known better and plenty of speculation as to what exactly will happen next. Because, as noted, this is an elected position, rather than one with a specific boss who can hire and fire people.

Which is precisely why, so far, Carona hasn’t budged.

It’s utterly, wickedly hilarious, frankly. As various defenders of Carona have tendentiously noted, the indictment and all that results from it is not a conviction, merely the start in the formal legal process. Speculation is running rampant that pressure is being brought to bear on him to turn on others the way that his former two minions Jaramillo and Haidl have on him, and if that process starts who knows where it will end, since the name mentioned more than once is DA Tony Rackauckas, who notably is not involved in the prosecution. Since it’s still early days all around, I’m content on that front just to sit and wait.

However it doesn’t address the core fact — an indicted man is currently the sheriff of Orange County, has claimed his innocence and says he’s not leaving. This argument hasn’t exactly washed with a lot of people and in the runup to the weekend everything was left hanging with a waffle of claims and counterclaims about whether he would or wouldn’t step aside. Nothing was much clearer since, and the fact that Rackauckas has sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors saying Carona should step aside is all the more interesting.

Meantime, the continuing reactions are telling. Board member John Moorlach, something of an OC political legend due to his accurate warnings about the financial games leading to the county’s bankruptcy back in the mid-90s, is otherwise pretty much a typical OC political character or rather caricature. It’s therefore a bit amusing to hear that he sent out an e-mail yesterday which was apparently a rant, though the full text has yet to surface:

[Moorlach] said he had heard the gossip about Carona’s alleged infidelity years ago but he chose to believe “this good Christian sheriff was just the recipient of a smear campaign.”

“On Tuesday morning, I, along with the rest of the county, had to find out from the media that Michael Carona was living a double life,” Moorlach wrote.

Except to repeat again — the OC Weekly via R. Scott Moxley had been covering this, and detailing those allegations, for years. The embarrassment isn’t finding out from ‘the media’ but that the supposed ‘smear campaign’ by a member of said media happened to actually be investigative reporting detailing things now leading to federal charges. Good job, guy. One suspects Moorlach right now is wishing his predictive skills were as sharp with smiling gladhanders dribbling virtue as they were with derivatives.

More entertaining today, though, is one of the crustiest men in a very crusty county, OC Register columnist Gordon Dillow, as much a representation of the soul of this place as, say, Mike Royko was for Chicago or Herb Caen was for San Francisco. The soul of Orange County being a different thing, Dillow’s views on life are generally of the pleasant variety showcasing the views of a man, as the Weekly’s Nick Schou says here, “who’s never seen an officer-involved shooting or excessive use of taser on an unarmed suspect he didn’t like.” There’s other stuff to talk about with Dillow as well but that really requires a separate post and the patience to deal with him, and the latter is not high on my priority list.

So today Dillow pens a boldly ahead of the curve claim that Carona might want to consider stepping down — bravo — and does so with the kind of fearless elan that…no, wait:

There are a lot of things that Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona can say in his own defense after being indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption charges last week.

[Dillow then goes on to say many such things, mostly either dwelling on technicalities or the idea that ‘a thousand bucks here, twelve thousand there’ were ‘minor financial and personal matters’ or similarly stirring stuff.]

He can argue all of that, and some or all of it may even be true. I’ve covered numerous federal criminal cases in my newspaper career, and after studying the indictment I have to say that, based solely on what’s on those pages, the conspiracy and witness-tampering charges against Carona do seem a little thin – at least so far.

But none of that changes this one inescapable fact:

Mike Carona can’t be sheriff anymore.

Before I continue, I should note that while I’m not a friend or political supporter of Carona, I’ve met and spoken with him numerous times over the years, and personally I liked the guy. As troubling as the allegations are, including the parts involving the alleged “mistress” – I don’t have any insight into Carona’s private life, but generally speaking, a man who cheats on his wife is by definition not a completely honest man – it saddens me to see him brought so low.

What’s beautiful about this are all the conditionals and the very way this is all set up. A few paragraphs essentially arguing Carona’s case for him, a meek ‘well gee he might have a point, you know those federal indictments!,’ a suddenly firm ‘he can’t be sheriff and BTW he was never my friend or anything…’ followed by a ‘nice guy, though’ clause. Then of course this as the killer touch: “…generally speaking, a man who cheats on his wife is by definition not a completely honest man.” Specifically speaking, perhaps, some can be generally honest if not completely. I’d love to see this guy as a marriage counselor.

The fact that this selection ends on a note of self-pity — Dillow is sad, oh noes! — is the most amusing part. That said, I was feeling a bit down in my first post on this the other day, not because I was feeling any sympathy at all for Carona, but because I was concerned about the continuing impact of idiocy like this in the mind of voters and citizens, not just here but elsewhere. Dillow rebounds later in the essay to address that a little more concretely but this type of mawkish there-but-for sentiment regarding Carona as a person strikes me as the type of thing he would condemn if this involved all those damned leftists out there he hates, though maybe a search for his doubtless equally thoughtful musings in the days of Monica Lewinsky’s fame will produce similar feelings of sorrow. I have my doubts, though.

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4 Responses to “The OC sheriff saga — already in farce mode”

  1. ChenZhen Says:

    Haven’t I seen this in a movie? If not, it sounds like it will make a good one.

  2. Ned Raggett Says:

    Hey, by the time they make it, Arnie can play himself.

  3. Madam Miaow Says:

    What? He can’r be sherrif coz he cheated on his wife? Was there something more? Did I miss something?

  4. Ned Raggett Says:

    Oh it’s more than that. Bribery and tax evasion, for a start!


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