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Orange County Sheriff, Mike Carona, Goes to Trial

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Former Orange County sheriff Mike Carona, right, arrives at federal court with his wife Deborah, in Santa Ana (AP Photo/ The Orange County Register, Ken Steinhardt)

Once deemed as "America's Sheriff" by CNN's Larry King, former Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona is now the focus of a media watched trial that began yesterday with all the stuff that make politics what it unfortunately is known for: money, bribes, power.

U.S. Attorneys allege that Carona took bribes for favors and illegally won his 1998 election to the job as top cop. The main feature of the case is Don Haidl, who Carona appointed to the job as assistant sheriff--although he be unqualified--after Haidl admittedly reimbursed people who made donations to Corona's campaign because there was a $2,000 limit on contributions. Both Haidl and George Jaramillo, Corona's campaign manager, pleaded guilty in their cases against them and are helping the prosecution in this case in exchange for lighter sentences.

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And that's what Corona's defense opened with yesterday--criminals, Carona's past associates and friends, as witnesses. "The evidence in this case will show the only people who made money, who tried to scam money, are the government's witnesses," defense lawyer Brian A. Sun told the court. "Mike Carona made no money." But prosecutors previewed audio recordings that supposedly show Carona and Haidl talking about untraceable cash bribes.