A federal appellate court panel ruled today that former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona can remain free on bail pending the appeal of his conviction for witness tampering.
In a one-page ruling, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal determined that “the parties agree that appellant (Carona) is not likely to flee or to pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community if released.”
“Appellant has shown that the appeal raises a `substantial question' of law or fact that is likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial or a sentence that does not include a term of imprisonment, on all counts on which imprisonment has been imposed,” the panel wrote in the ruling.
Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, said prosecutors would not comment on the ruling.
The witness-tampering charge stemmed from a secretly recorded conversation Carona had on Aug. 13, 2007, with Don Haidl, the key witness against him in the federal corruption trial.
Prosecutors maintained that Carona accepted more than $350,000 in cash and gifts from the wealthy businessman, and in return, made him an assistant sheriff, though Haidl lacked a law enforcement background.
The central point of Carona's appeal centers on California State Bar Rule 2-100, which bars opposing lawyers from contacting someone involved in the case who has a lawyer. Defense attorney Jeffrey Rawitz said prosecutors violated that rule when they sent Haidl -- who was wired for sound -- to meet with Carona.
Carona, 53, was acquitted on Jan. 16 of five other corruption counts, including conspiracy and withholding honest services from the residents of Orange County.
Carona was sheriff from January 1999 through January 2008. He stepped down after being indicted to concentrate on his defense.