(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Thursday upheld the conviction of a former California sheriff on witness tampering.
Michael Carona resigned from his position as Orange County sheriff after he was indicted in 2008 for several corruption crimes. Witness tampering had been the only charge to stick in a federal jury trial.
On appeal, Carona claimed prosecutors should never have submitted into evidence an incriminating conversation that was improperly recorded. Since Carona was being represented by counsel, the district court had found it was improper for the prosecutors to use a cooperating witness to elicit incriminating statements from Carona.
Writing for the Pasadena-based appellate panel, Judge Richard Clifton said the district court did not need to suppress the evidence or impose sanctions against the government. Clifton added that the prosecutor did not violate the California professional conduct rules and did not have to be disqualified.
“The concern that a suspect might be tricked by counsel’s artful examination is inapplicable here, since Carona was not subject to any interrogation, let alone one by the prosecutor,” Clifton wrote. “Rather he was engaging in a conversation with an individual he believed to be his ally against the prosecution. It would be antithetical to the administration of justice to allow a wrongdoer to immunize himself against such undercover operations simply by letting it be known that he has retained counsel.”
Carona also argued that he should be acquitted because the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury, but Clifton disagreed on this count as well.