Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo
Ex-OC Asst. Sheriff Pleads Not Guilty To Bribery, Obstructing Justice
July 25th 2005
SANTA ANA, Calif. - An indictment unsealed Monday accuses an ex-Orange County assistant sheriff of taking $25,000 in bribes and using department resources to help a businessman hawk a device to the wider law enforcment community. George Jaramillo, 44, pleaded not guilty to four felony counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, as well as two misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charges.
Jaramillo had been charged with six counts of misappropriation of public funds and four misdemeanor conflict-of-interest charges, but those counts were dismissed after the indictment was unsealed.
Jaramillo, who remains free on $25,000 bail, was ordered to appear before Orange County Superior Court Judge William Froeberg on Aug. 5 to set a trial date. Jaramillo is accused of using his position to advance the private financial interests of CHG Technologies Inc. and its former owner, Charles Gabbard, in touting a device that uses a laser to stop vehicles whose drivers are fleeing from law enforcement.
The seven-count indictment alleges that Jaramillo conspired to use his position in exchange for $25,000 in bribes and to get his sister-in-law, Erica Hill, a job with the private firm. Jaramillo and Hill were initially charged in the case on Sept. 29. But earlier this month, she was granted immunity and testified before the grand jury.
Charges against her were subsequently dropped, but both prosecutors and defense attorneys said the dismissal did not include an agreement that she testify against Jaramillo. Jaramillo would have faced up to 10 years in prison had he been convicted of the other charges. The maximum penalty under the indictment charges is seven years, said Susan Schroeder, of the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
Schroeder said the changes were based on research and legal strategy. "I can say the reasons will come out," Schroeder said. "It will become apparent later. These charges are actually more accurate. They basically describe what Jaramillo did ... taking the money and the money influencing his decisions."
Defense attorney Joseph Cavallo said the "factual basis of the charges appear to be the same" in both cases. But with the indictment, prosecutors do not have to go through a hearing before a judge to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Cavallo said a hearing on whether there was enough evidence for a trial had been pending before Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley, "who had a clear understand of the facts of the case. And in my opinion, after hearing further evidence, he would have dismissed the case." Even if the case goes to trial, prosecutors are "not going to be able to prove the counts to begin with," the attorney said. Cavallo said the prosecution has attempted to "streamline" the case by eliminating one defendant and altering the charges so that they are more "factually specific" in a bid to "have a better chance to get a conviction. I disagree."
But Schroeder said Cavallo "is in Fantasyland if he thinks we did it to avoid Conley or a preliminary hearing."
She said the grand jury's "12 neutral, upstanding members of the community decided there was cause" to bring the charges. Some observers have theorized that eliminating misuse of public funds charges could blunt Jaramillo's defense that his boss knew about the laser device demonstrations and shared any culpability. But when the charges were first announced, District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas said Sheriff Mike Carona has made it clear that he knew nothing of the alleged violations and that prosecutors had no evidence to the contrary.
The conspiracy count alleges 11 "overt" acts:
While assistant sheriff, Jaramillo offered to work as a "consultant" for CHG and that Gabbard accepted Jaramillo's offer.
Jaramillo received money from CHG even though the county counsel had cautioned him about legal restrictions relating to conflicts of interest and secondary employment.
Jaramillo violated rules by failing to submit a written request for approval before accepting secondary employment.
Jaramillo violated sheriff's department rules requiring him to seek renewed approval for secondary employment every January.
On or about Oct. 15, 2000, Gabbard gave Jaramillo a check for $10,000 made payable to George Jaramillo.
The same day, Jaramillo asked Gabbard to void the check and issue a new one made payable to his wife.
On or about Oct. 23, 2000, Gabbard agreed to Jaramillo's request to hire Hill, "Jaramillo's sister-in-law and long-term sexual partner."
On or about Nov. 3, 2000, Jaramillo accepted an $8,000 check from Gabbard.
On or about Feb. 1, 2001, Jaramillo accepted a $7,000 check from Gabbard.
Between Oct. 15, 2000, and June 21, 2002, Jaramillo ordered the deployment of sheriff's employees and equipment to stage demonstrations of CHG's products.
Jaramillo attempted to earn a substantial commission from the sale of CHG to an outside investor.
While one of the bribery charges alleges that Gabbard wrote a $10,000 check payable to Jaramillo's wife, Schroeder said she is not charged because of lack of "sufficient evidence that Lisa (Jaramillo) had an agreement to violate the law."
Abusing Department resources
Fired Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo charged with abusing department resources
The Orange County Register
September 30th 2004
SANTA ANA - Fired Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who once hoped to become the county's top cop, was arrested Wednesday and charged with using department resources to benefit a company that paid him $25,000 in consulting fees.
Jaramillo, accompanied by his attorney, surrendered to Santa Ana City Jail at 11 a.m., where he was booked on six counts of felony misappropriation of public funds and four counts of misdemeanor conflict of interest. He later pleaded not guilty before Superior Court Judge Marc Kelly in Santa Ana and was released on $25,000 bail.
The legal process taking Jaramillo from former high-powered policeman to criminal defendant occurred within a short walk from the second-floor sheriff's office where he commanded the department's patrol operations for six years. Also charged with three counts of misappropriation was Jaramillo's sister-in-law, Erica Hill, who worked for the same company that hired Jaramillo as a consultant. She also pleaded not guilty and was freed on $25,000 bail.
Jaramillo, 44, faces a maximum penalty of nine years in prison if convicted. Hill, 34, would face six years. "My clients will be exonerated," said defense attorney Joseph Smith, who appeared for both Jaramillo and Hill. "My clients have been pillars of their community for their entire lives. (They) have not committed any crimes."
Prosecutor James Laird declined comment after Wednesday's court appearance, deferring to a press conference scheduled for today. Jaramillo's arrest came five days after another assistant sheriff, Don Haidl, resigned, citing the strain from a case involving gang-rape allegations against his son.
Sheriff Mike Carona declined to be interviewed Wednesday but issued a short statement. "I am deeply disappointed that someone I placed in a position of trust may have misused their position and is now accused of serious crimes," Carona wrote.
It was Carona who in March 2000 introduced Jaramillo to Charles Gabbard, the businessman who hired Jaramillo as a consultant. The charges against Jaramillo involve six demonstrations between August 2000 and June 2002 showcasing a crime-fighting device created by Gabbard's company, CHG Technologies Inc. Jaramillo is accused of using sheriff's personnel and patrol cars at taxpayer expense to demonstrate the laser-gun device, which purportedly stops fleeing autos at the push of a button.
Jaramillo and his wife, Lisa, were paid $25,000 by CHG Technologies in the fall of 2000 to pitch the product to his law-enforcement colleagues and other would-be supporters. Lisa Jaramillo was not charged. Gabbard said he hired Hill at Jaramillo's behest to help run the office.
In an April interview, Jaramillo said there was nothing inappropriate about accepting the consulting fees while he was assistant sheriff, saying he had sought permission from Carona and the county lawyer. "It was all open and aboveboard and by the book," he said. "I checked to see if it was OK with the people I needed to check with. I claimed it on the proper (conflict-of-interest) forms, and I paid taxes on it." Michael Schroeder, a spokesman for Carona, said the sheriff referred Jaramillo to the County Counsel's Office for a legal opinion. The office declined to comment.
The payments sparked a federal and local probe into whether Jaramillo improperly used department resources to promote CHG Technologies. A sheriff's helicopter and at least two patrol cars were used during one demonstration in 2000. That demonstration was attended by Jaramillo and Carona, who participated in stopping a test car with the device.
Carona acknowledges that he introduced Gabbard and Jaramillo and organized one demonstration, which was not part of the criminal case. Court papers filed Wednesday contend that Carona was unaware of Jaramillo's subsequent financial relationship with CHG Technologies and further demonstrations.
Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said Jaramillo's stance that his boss knew of - and even participated in - the demonstrations could pose a strong defense. "His defense could be that I thought I had the authority of law because I cleared it through the county counsel and I saw my boss doing it," Levenson said.
Jaramillo at one time was Carona's closest confidant at the 2,300-deputy department. He carried a gold badge given to him by the sheriff and inscribed with the words: "My Friend, My Brother, My Chief of Staff."
That changed March 17, when Carona fired Jaramillo, saying only that he wanted to reorganize his management team. It was learned the next day that state and federal officials were investigating Jaramillo.
Gabbard and CHG Technologies also are at the center of a campaign fund-raising scandal involving the Jaramillos and Carona's 2002 re-election campaign.
Gabbard has admitted that he funneled at least $29,000 to Carona's campaign at a May 18, 2000, fund-raiser, then reimbursed at least 10 donors with cash or CHG stock. Lisa Jaramillo planned the fund- raiser. Carona has said in earlier interviews that he knew nothing of the illegal donations. After an internal investigation, his campaign confirmed that the contributions were illegal. The campaign is seeking advice from the Fair Political Practices Commission on what to do with the money.
Besides misappropriation, Jaramillo has faced unproved allegations that he improperly interceded on behalf of Gregory Haidl, accused of gang rape and the son of former assistant sheriff Don Haidl.
On Wednesday, Jaramillo was told by authorities at about 7 a.m. to turn himself in for arrest by 11 a.m. Jaramillo and Hill arrived in a Chevrolet Tahoe and were met by an investigator from the District Attorney's Office. They drove into an entrance to the city jail, where Jaramillo changed out of his blue suit and into an olive jail smock for his booking photo. He was allowed to change back into his suit and was taken in a patrol car to the courthouse for arraignment.
OC Sheriff Carona planeed a dynasty, but sex and money got in the way
by R. SCOTT MOXLEY
This is a story about a famous LA porn star, a suspicious detective and a frustrated Orange County sheriff. It’s also a story about ex-Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, who is—by his own reckoning—a devoted family man, a hard-working immigrant, and a Mormon who doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke. He is, he says, a “genuinely nice guy who has never done anything wrong.” And sure enough, if you hang around Jaramillo, you’ll see an often polite, always confident man who appears benevolent.
Jaramillo’s self-proclaimed innocence prompts laughter among cops who worked with him before he was fired, arrested and indicted on six felony corruption charges last year. These officers say the former second in command at the $500-million-a-year sheriff’s department is driven by greed and lust, and is all the more dangerous because he can be disarmingly charming.
But if Jaramillo had severe character flaws, it was a minor one—tightfistedness—that may have begun his undoing.
* * *
Bud Hood is a veteran cop who has worked everything from auto thefts to dignitary protection. Hood was one of the first deputies to join Mike Carona’s 1998 campaign for sheriff. That’s how he met Jaramillo, a former Garden Grove cop who handled the Carona campaign’s media and fund-raising. After the election, Carona rewarded Jaramillo and his campaign financier, Don Haidl, with two of the five jobs as assistant sheriff.
Many rank-and-file deputies were not impressed. Carona’s move broke 52 years of department protocol, under which neither Jaramillo nor Haidl was qualified. While Haidl—a millionaire used-car salesman—worked only part time with the sheriff’s reserves, Jaramillo found himself inside an initially hostile agency. He needed allies and turned to Hood, among a few others, for official as well as personal assignments.
According to grand jury records reviewed by the Weekly, Jaramillo frequently gave Hood film to develop. The film contained nude pictures of dozens of women, including the assistant sheriff’s wife, sister-in-law, several secretaries and at least one county employee. Most of the shots were soft-porn, topless poses. Some were taken at police conventions or in Las Vegas. Hood and other sheriff’s department employees told investigators Jaramillo put the pictures in a thick photo album, shared his sex encyclopedia at the office and identified the women as his conquests.
The grand jury also heard that the assistant sheriff, whose salary topped $135,000 annually, was a legendary cheapskate. Not only was Jaramillo bold enough to openly celebrate his adultery, he allegedly stuck Hood with the costs of developing the film from his escapades. In 2001, several deputies refused Jaramillo’s request that they rent a San Diego hotel room so that he could have a three-way sex romp. The deputies were sure they’d never be repaid.
What bothered Hood most wasn’t the film costs, the adultery or the porn. He witnessed Jaramillo badmouth Carona behind his back, steal credit for the sheriff’s successes and brag about taking over the department. Hood, a 27-year-veteran cop, thought the assistant sheriff was destined to sabotage Carona.
“George began to show a persona that was a disloyal demon, almost,” said Hood. “You know, I don’t know how else to categorize it. But it’s not normal for people to show you nude pictures of their wife.”
The deputy shared his concerns with the sheriff in a private 1999 meeting. Carona thanked Hood but said he thought Jaramillo’s office missteps were correctable with training. Four years later, Hood’s view hadn’t changed. In July 2004, he told the grand jury that Jaramillo was simply a “corrupt individual.”
During conversations with Jaramillo, it’s easy to see his mind race from subject to subject. He’s funny and opinionated and loves challenges. He talks as if he’s invincible. But for four years he made a terrible error. He mistook Hood as either a fan or an imbecile.
Jaramillo was clueless that the man in whom he’d confided kept mental notes; that the man he’d asked to fix his home computer for free had installed a program to save all deleted files in case there was ever an investigation; and that the man he’d asked to establish a secret cell phone account had kept detailed records of calls and would someday give that log to inquiring FBI agents.
“You can’t trust anybody,” says Jaramillo.
Hood likely agrees. He got stuck paying the assistant sheriff’s film costs. And then, he says, Jaramillo stiffed him on more than $800 in cell phone bills.
* * *
A beautiful Canadian-born blonde with incredible curves and an intoxicating smile, Amanda Friedland is an internationally famous porn star. Grand jury records say Friedland uses the stage name of Shyla Stylez. She lives in LA and was once married to one of the biggest adult-film producers in the nation. Among her 40-plus films are Big Tit Bust Out, Anal Addicts, Dumb Blonde, My Perfect 10’s Again, Semen Biscuit, Humping 9 to 5, Make a Beeline for My Behind, Pussy Licking Good and Tit’s a Wonderful Life.
Under oath, Hood told the grand jury and investigators that Jaramillo had bragged about several trysts with the porn star. “I believe it was his birthday and he was going out for a full day with her while he was on duty,” said Hood, who declined to be interviewed for this story.
Indeed, FBI agents have records of Jaramillo’s calls to Friedland’s phone in August and September 2003. For example, on August 5, 2003, Jaramillo repeatedly called the porn star in the morning as he drove to LA and then phoned two hotels, according to the records. During one seven-minute period that day, the assistant sheriff called the woman seven times.
In a brief interview with the Weekly, Friedland knew of Jaramillo but said she was unaware of a grand jury investigation. “I’m not going to confirm anything about anything,” she said. “You’ve caught me off-guard.”
Jaramillo denies an affair.
But it wasn’t just a porn star linked to the assistant sheriff. He allegedly looked for sexual gratification in public places. In 1999—not long after Carona-Jaramillo took over the sheriff’s department—an undercover narcotics deputy observed Jaramillo “getting oral sex” inside his official silver Crown Victoria at a Huntington Beach parking lot, grand jury records show. Though Jaramillo had an innocent explanation—he was giving the woman “legal advice,” the incident created a “large firestorm” at the department.
“George would tell me the story that there was no way the team, which was the narcotics team, could have seen him getting any kind of oral sex in the car because it had dark tinted windows,” Hood testified. “Later, much later, George disclosed that the woman was [we’ve deleted the name of a county employee], and he also said that he was getting oral sex in the car.”
The grand jury also heard rumors about an incident involving Jaramillo and a prostitute in Anaheim, as well as the assistant sheriff’s sexual overtures to several secretaries, including one who was promised college admissions help during a long-term affair.
A source who worked closely with Jaramillo for several years said the man was insatiable. “He expected women to do things for him—especially on his birthdays,” the source said. “It’s like he felt entitled to sex, and he’d pout and sulk until women gave him what he wanted. Then he’d take nude photos of the women. I think the pictures were the trophies of his conquests.”
* * *
It’s not easy for a high-ranking cop to attract FBI scrutiny. But it wasn’t Jaramillo’s sex life that interested agents. It was his finances and the still publicly unresolved question: Did he use his public office for kickbacks or scams?
Jaramillo and his family live in a modest, often-refinanced South County house purchased in 1994 before the real estate rush. Thanks to his powerful badge, Jaramillo shot into Orange County’s high society. Millionaire businessmen with ocean-view estates, breathtaking yachts and the latest cars wanted to be his friend. They invited him to lunches and dinners or weekend boat cruises.
Hobnobbing with the rich made Jaramillo all the more determined to share their lifestyle. When he traveled to Washington, D.C., on official business, he repeatedly checked into opulent hotel rooms near the White House. For example, during a three-day 2002 trip, he rented a $365 per night room at the Willard Inter-Continental. On another trip that year, he stayed at the J.W. Marriott on Pennsylvania Avenue at a cost of $354 per night, according to records obtained by the Weekly.
Jaramillo wanted to supplement his county pay. He helped get his wife Lisa, a professional fund-raiser, several jobs raising money for local politicians (including Carona, Rackauckas and state Assemblyman Todd Spitzer) and law enforcement-related charities. At times, the pay was extraordinary. She took $40,000 in proceeds from a single-night charity event for the sheriff’s reserves.
The assistant sheriff also sought consulting work for himself and found, among others, Charles Gabbard, owner of CHG Safety Technologies Inc. in Newport Beach. Gabbard paid Jaramillo $15,000 for light work over a three-month period and $10,000 to Lisa, who admits she did nothing for the money.
During a recent court appearance, Gabbard—a convicted felon—called the payments “bribes” but struggled to say what he was buying other than Jaramillo’s endorsement of his product, a laser gun and vehicle chip designed to safely end police pursuits. Last September, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed felony corruption charges against Jaramillo and his sister-in-law Erica Hill. Jaramillo had gotten her a job at CHG and then, according to the DA’s office, plotted a hostile takeover of Gabbard’s company.
The FBI’s Santa Ana field office, working in conjunction with federal prosecutors in LA, has reviewed the CHG affair—which involved tens of thousands of dollars in illegal corporate campaign contributions to Carona—but so far has filed no charges. Agents have also investigated allegations of other kickback schemes, influence peddling, income-tax evasion and an out-of-state bank account. One includes a plot to pressure county inmates to hire certain defense attorneys who would then pay a reward to participating deputies. Another involves a plan to favor tow truck operators willing to share their financial windfall.
In recent weeks, federal prosecutors interviewed Jaramillo. Sources say a PowerPoint presentation outlined a pending corruption case tied to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. The agents wanted to know if the ex-assistant sheriff had any information to share. Jaramillo adamantly denied the meeting. “Didn’t happen,” he said.
* * *
When Sheriff Carona invited Jaramillo to dinner at Santa Ana’s Antonello Ristorante in August 2003, he had a painful secret to share. The men were self-described “brothers,” “close” confidantes and “partners” since their underdog campaign won the sheriff’s department in 1999. Their success bred a daring plan: Carona would serve as sheriff for the first half of a 16-year dynasty while grooming Jaramillo as his successor.
Despite a few early missteps, the Carona-Jaramillo team quickly grew in strength. They learned how to control the 4,000-employee agency, woo or intimidate political rivals and silence internal critics. Deputies appreciated their modernization efforts.
But the bulk of Carona’s cop career involved courthouse security while serving as county marshal. Jaramillo had been a midlevel Garden Grove PD officer, known more for working public relations than solving crimes. Nevertheless, persistent media manipulation allowed the pair to build missing credentials as super cops.
The results were staggering. CNN’s Larry King called Carona “America’s sheriff” in 2002 during the Samantha Runnion case. Pundits pegged him as a future congressman or U.S. senator. California’s last two governors—a Democrat and a Republican—brought him into their inner circles. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted Carona as his lieutenant governor. President Bush appointed him a top adviser on national security issues.
Jaramillo was no slouch either. In the span of a few short years, the onetime door-to-door salesman had parlayed a job at the Garden Grove Police Department and a night-school law degree into serving as second in command at the powerful sheriff’s department. His office calendars show a man unafraid of long days and complex issues. Under Carona, he’d developed a national reputation as a rising Latino star. A July 2003 anti-terrorism speech he delivered to a congressional homeland security committee further burnished his image. The accomplishments didn’t escape notice inside the Bush White House, where articulate minority Republicans are prized.
To the outside world, Carona and Jaramillo looked unstoppable; an OC dynasty was not only possible but a cinch, given their newfound celebrity status. Even Hollywood executives called, interested in featuring their department in a weekly network reality TV series.
But the PR glory masked an ugly reality. The partnership had collapsed amid childish power plays, backstabbing, insubordination and ethical messes. Carona cared for his top deputy, cherished his contributions and respected his talents, but he no longer trusted him.
Complaints about Jaramillo had stockpiled. He allegedly promoted personal allies in the department, punished perceived enemies and constantly interfered with reserve units, where often wealthy or politically connected individuals get an official badge. He unsuccessfully pressured DA Rackauckas to go easy on three gang-rape defendants because one was the teenage son of Assistant Sheriff Haidl. In August 2002, an uninvited Jaramillo was threatened with arrest if he didn’t leave a VIP area during a Santa Ana visit by President Bush. Detectives trying to solve major crimes claimed Jaramillo would call them to his office and make them wait extended periods of time while he chatted with others about inconsequential business.
“He was all about flexing his muscle,” said one veteran deputy. “The guy was a major-league asshole.”
It took several years, but Carona eventually understood the frustration. In February 2003, the sheriff made his first visit to the Long Beach airport for a Jet Blue flight. The clerk at the counter welcomed him back. Carona thanked her but said he’d never been to that airport or flown Jet Blue. The clerk then recalled a trip two months earlier when a man who said he was the Orange County sheriff had delayed a flight to Washington, D.C. Later, a shocked Carona learned the whole story: a vacation-bound Jaramillo had not only used his authority to interfere with a flight, but he’d also used the department’s helicopter to visit his ill mother at Mission Hospital before flying to the airport. There, Jaramillo discovered he’d left his wallet and wife’s purse inside his car parked at the hospital, ordered a deputy to retrieve the items, and commanded the sheriff’s helicopter to rendezvous with the deputy’s car. The department’s helicopter landed off the 241 toll road and rushed the wallet and purse to Jaramillo and his wife at the Long Beach airport.
According to Jaramillo, he didn’t order the deputies to fly the helicopter anywhere. He says they took it upon themselves to serve him. Disclosure of “this blown out of proportion” incident proves his enemies were determined to destroy him, he insists.
However Carona believed the assistant sheriff was his own worst enemy. At the August 2003 Antonello’s dinner, Carona dropped his bombshell on Jaramillo: You don’t have the temperament to lead Orange County’s law enforcement. You will not get my endorsement for sheriff in the 2006 race.
The revelation stunned Jaramillo. Tears formed in his eyes. Had Carona’s remark been off-the-cuff due to an exhausting workload, the late hour or too many martinis? Or perhaps the sheriff was joking, Jaramillo hoped. Hadn’t they promised each other a Carona-Jaramillo dynasty? Wasn’t this the height of betrayal?
Jaramillo agrees there was talk of no endorsement at the dinner and that emotions ran high. But he says it was the sheriff who was teary-eyed. Carona had begged him to remain at his side if he ran for lieutenant governor, according to Jaramillo.
Whatever the truth, seven months later Carona removed the assistant sheriff from office in a “management reorganization.” Before deputies escorted him out of the building, Jaramillo told his old friend, “Fuck you,” and then promised he had enough dirt to “burn your house down,” according to a source who was present. The sheriff’s allies say that it wasn’t until afterwards that Carona—who’ll seek a third term in 2006—learned of the FBI’s interest in his department and the ex-assistant sheriff.
All the controversy has inspired Sheriff’s Lieutenant Bill Hunt, the chief of police in San Clemente, to consider running against Carona in ’06. As the incumbent, Carona will likely receive massive financial support from the county’s corporate community and GOP bigwigs. The underdog role doesn’t seem to bother Hunt, who has 24 years’ law-enforcement experience. He recently told KUCI host Cameron Jackson that he’s determined to bring honest leadership to the sheriff’s department.
* * *
If Jaramillo has flammable material on Carona, it will likely include adultery allegations. The rumors were first chronicled after DA detective Dina Mauger interviewed Jaramillo’s sister-in-law, Hill, in May 2004. Investigating CHG’s illegal contributions to the sheriff, Mauger asked Hill if Carona had a sexual relationship with one of his advisers.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” said Hill. “Everybody saw them together. They don’t hide it. It’s so ridiculous.”
Jaramillo refuses to talk on the record about Carona’s alleged affair. The woman, whom the Weekly chooses not to identify, laughed off the rumor, saying unequivocally that she is not intimate with the sheriff.
“If you’ve ever seen Damien Omen II, the evil kid in that movie is George,” she joked. More solemnly, she added: “George is sinking and he’s desperate to drag everyone down with him. It’s really sad.”
Carona calls the affair assertion part of the “Jaramillo 10 percent rule. . . There’s often 10 percent truth in what George says. Yes, I know [the woman]. Yes, we traveled with two other people in the department helicopter once on official business. Yes, I talk to her. She’s one of my advisers, but the rest is George’s imagination.”
* * *
An immigrant from Ecuador, Jaramillo nowadays says he’s been singled-out for prosecution and public humiliation, in part, due to racism. He recalls the pressure of being the only minority in a room of white male cops. If he was going to rise to the top of law enforcement, he thought he needed to always dress, speak and perform better than anyone else. Jaramillo supporters say this drive made the assistant sheriff a threat to Carona.
“George was screwed by Mike Carona,” said one longtime Jaramillo ally. “The bottom line is that the sheriff was afraid George would take his job. This is all about positioning for power.”
Jaramillo agrees that he’s been victimized, but shows no anger. He says he’s trying to move on with his life. His attitude is mostly optimistic, although he’s occasionally exasperated. He likes to talk about his family, his faith and American Idol. He’s working another job that he won’t discuss. His family still loves and supports him, but his future is questionable. He’s facing prison if convicted.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” says Joseph G. Cavallo, Jaramillo’s lawyer. “George Jaramillo would have been an outstanding sheriff. The guy is brilliant.”
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Carona and Jaramillo had traveled together as official dignitaries to places as far away as Moscow and Helsinki. They’d dreamed they were unbeatable.
But if Carona had been paying attention, there was a clue that a nightmare loomed. In October 2002, Jaramillo made arrangements for the men to attend a “Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children” conference in Washington, D.C. He’d reserved rooms in the ritzy Sofitel hotel, an apparently fitting choice given their status as national heroes for arresting Alejandro Avila in the kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion.
One other detail stood out. After landing at Washington’s Dulles airport, the sheriff and his deputy looked for their hired chauffeur and limousine. The driver had been given a special instruction for the $130 ride, according to records obtained by the Weekly. He held a placard that said, “Jaramillo & Carona.”
* * *
I’d cornered Jaramillo inside Orange County’s central courthouse after a pretrial hearing in March. On this day, the 44-year-old was frustrated with delays in his case. A trial is likely to begin in October. He said he’s anxious for vindication. He doubted the DA can find 12 jurors who’ll want to send him—“a man with a spotless record”—to prison.
A prosecutor not assigned to his case recognized Jaramillo in the hallway and walked over. “George, good to see you!” the man said as he patted Jaramillo’s back. “Hang in there.”
Jaramillo smiled and told me, “That was classy, wasn’t it?”
Minutes later, a deputy walked by. They exchange pleasantries. After the officer leaves, Jaramillo said, “That guy’s got a beautiful wife.”
Five minutes later, two more deputies approach. They each vigorously shook the former assistant sheriff’s hand. One said, “Don’t let the bastards get you.”
Jaramillo nodded his head in appreciation, but was momentarily speechless. Was he trying to remember their names? Was he dreaming about lost power over 4,000 employees and a half-billion-dollar annual budget? Or was he genuinely touched by their humanity?
“Hey, fellas, thanks,” he finally said. “Just keep up the good work. Don’t worry about me. I’m going to be fine. Trust me.”
Orange County sheriff fires second-in-command
6:31 p.m. March 17, 2004
SANTA ANA – Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona announced Wednesday that he has fired Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo, his second-in-command.
Jaramillo, 43, joined the department in 1999 and his tenure was marked with several controversies, including a grand jury investigation into whether he interfered with a criminal investigation involving the son of another assistant sheriff. Jaramillo also paid the county $241 last year after sheriff's officials learned that he used a sheriff's helicopter to shuttle him and his wife to Long Beach Airport for a flight to a White House event.
The sheriff's department in an statement said that Jaramillo "has been released from his at-will position" and stated that Carona made the decision after reevaluating his executive team. Carona recognized Jaramillo's service to the department and community and thanked him for his contributions, the statement said.
Jon Fleischman, a sheriff's spokesman, said the controversies surrounding Jaramillo had nothing to do with his firing. "The sole reason was the sheriff's re-evaluation of his team," Fleischman said.
Jaramillo in 1998 joined Carona's campaign to succeed longtime Sheriff Brad Gates. He previously had been a patrolman and sergeant in Garden Grove and ran his own private law practice.
Last year, he was accused by Newport Beach Police Chief Bob McDonnell of tampering with an investigation of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl's son, Greg, who has been charged with two other youths for allegedly raping an unconscious teenage girl at Haidl's home in July 2002 and videotaping it.
McDonnell sent Carona a letter saying Jaramillo advised Greg Haidl against giving a statement to his department's detectives.
In an audio tape obtained by KCBS-TV last year also, Jaramillo and two other sheriff's officials can be heard discussing how to silence another incident involving Greg Haidl and marijuana.
"Listen, listen," Jaramillo says on the tape. "The press would be all over this ... so we gotta make sure this stays ..."
"I know," a lieutenant responds. "It won't be put on the log or anything, and the chief's gonna know and that's our secret."
December 5 - 11, 2003
'Our Little Secret'
Audio tape reveals cover-up of drug bust involving a sheriff’s son already on trial for a videotaped gang bang
by R. Scott Moxley
A bombshell audio recording reveals police suppressed evidence that Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl’s teenage son was caught smoking marijuana while awaiting trial on charges he participated in a 2002 videotaped gang rape of an unconscious 16-year-old girl.
Official records show that Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo secretly ordered Sgt. Richard Downing to bury evidence of Gregory Scott Haidl’s involvement in an Oct. 26 San Clemente drug bust. Records also prove that Sheriff’s Lt. William J. Hunt--chief of police services in San Clemente, where the sheriff has jurisdiction--released Haidl without arrest and chauffeured him home. In a subsequent report, Hunt downplayed the ride as a "courtesy to another member of the department whose son was in a situation he should not have been in."
Haidl is awaiting a March trial on the rape charges. Under terms of his $100,000 bail, a drug arrest would have landed the 18-year-old in jail immediately.
Sheriff’s Department officials deny they obstructed justice on Haidl’s behalf.
But a sheriff’s department audio recording offers a rare, candid
glimpse of Orange County law enforcement. On the tape, an excited
Downing reaches Jaramillo at home on the night of Oct. 26. He tells
Jaramillo, a political appointee close to Sheriff Mike Carona, that
deputies have helped Haidl get out of "trouble." Downing tells
Jaramillo that officers found young Haidl "smoking pot behind some
industrial buildings and that Hunt has "cut loose" Haidl without arrest
"Okay," says Jaramillo, who then orders that any records of the
encounter be "buried" because "the press will be all over this."
Downing replies that the incident won’t appear in the official log. He
tells Jaramillo the drug bust will be "our little secret."
For five days, the stratagem worked. Deputies kept the episode
hidden from public view by recording erroneous or factually
incomplete information in their reports. Deputy J. Roche, an officer
at the scene, wrote in his Oct. 26 "Daily Activity Report" that he merely found the three teenagers skateboarding in San Clemente’s Talega Business Park. He concluded vaguely: "all released; no prosecution." Roche did not mention Haidl’s family connection or rape charges, the sandwich bag and orange pill bottle containing 3.5 grams of marijuana, the yellow glass smoking pipe with pot residue, or why officers had lingered at the scene for 65 minutes.
All anyone on the outside world was supposed to know about the drug bust was the deceptive words deputies used on the department’s online incident log: "traffic stop."
But on Oct. 31, KCBS-TV reporter Dave Lopez spooked deputies when he confronted them with a tip that Haidl had received a favor, like a ride home from an illegal skateboarding event. Sheriff’s spokesman Jim Amormino coyly told Lopez that Haidl had been given a ride home, but said the favor wasn’t a big deal.
Officers may have appeared calm, but behind the scenes tension mounted. Sheriff’s department records show that within hours of the Lopez call, deputies filed a new, backdated and altered "crime report" and, in violation of sheriff’s policy, logged the drugs--inexplicably minus the pot pipe--into the evidence locker more than 100 hours after they’d been confiscated.
Roche’s new version of events carried a handwritten date of Oct. 26 but was not time-stamped until Oct. 31. During those five days the skateboarding incident became a "possession of marijuana" case--not against Haidl, but against his 16-year-old companion. Roche dutifully noted that he had "seized" drugs and promptly logged the narcotics into evidence. Nowhere did he bother to explain numerous discrepancies with his original report.
Even more problematic is that sheriff’s department files do not support Roche’s new account. For example, evidence-tracking records reviewed by the Weekly demonstrate that many items were logged in during the Oct. 26-27 shift--a fraudulent check, a screwdriver, a Popov vodka bottle, a spray-paint can, a California license plate and an obscenity-laden paddle--but no drugs from the Haidl incident.
An apparent part of the cover-up was the effort to get the 16-year-old suspect to take responsibility for the pot—in hopes of relieving Haidl of any culpability. Law enforcement sources claim Haidl’s 16-year-old skateboarding companion agreed to the deal sometime between Oct. 26 and Oct. 31. They say the minor was promised that his name would remain secret and he’d only have to attend drug diversion classes as punishment.
On Nov. 3, KCBS aired its report about deputies giving Haidl a special ride home, and though some involved officers privately expressed no fear, others openly worried about further leaks. The next day, Chief Hunt wrote a memo to the City Council and City Manager George Scarborough. In the memo, Hunt expressed hope that there would be "no more negative press." He also described the affair as routine and promised "there was no reason for [Haidl’s] arrest."
But Hunt didn’t mention that his officers had filed multiple contradictory reports, publicly listed a drug bust as a traffic stop, misplaced the pot pipe and took five days to log the marijuana into evidence. At the end of the memo, he noted that he would continue to work with the sheriff’s media relations unit to explain the "actual circumstances of this incident" to the press.
But it’s not just the press asking questions anymore. In early November, the grand jury opened an investigation to determine if officers obstructed justice on Haidl’s behalf. The citizen-led panel working in conjunction with District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has a copy of the Downing-Jaramillo audiotape as well as contradictory official reports of the incident. The first witness called in for an explanation was Jaramillo, but he pleaded the 5th Amendment.
Asked if he ordered deputies to bury evidence in the drug bust, Jaramillo told the Weekly, "Nope, nope, nope. I didn’t give such an order . . . I never used the word bury."
But he admitted that he did hope to keep the incident—which he called a "chump-change infraction"--out of the press. "I may have said, ‘Don’t put [the incident] on the log,’ but I had just woken up."
Jaramillo denied that his intervention was improper or illegal. "There was nothing unusual about this," he said. "We’ve done this many times for politicians." "I’m not so naïve as to try to get something buried," Jaramillo said. He added that everything he discussed that night with Downing was "standard operating procedure." Jaramillo also adamantly denied that he knew Haidl had been smoking pot. "They did not tell me that," he said. The assistant sheriff says he welcomes the grand jury investigation. "It isn’t a cover-up," he said. "It’s a procedural thing about keeping embarrassing things out of the press . . . I don’t want good people like the Haidls to be beaten on."
The San Clemente pot case isn’t the only time Jaramillo allegedly interceded in a criminal matter for young Haidl. Jaramillo became the subject of controversy during the investigation of the 2002 videotaped gang bang of an unconscious 16-year-old girl in Haidl’s Newport Beach house. Prosecutors claim Jaramillo advised the Haidl family not to answer their questions.
"I was not involved," Jaramillo told the Weekly. "I played no role. I played no part. I didn’t talk to the boy or anyone else."
Along with Kyle Joseph Nachreiner and Keith James Spann, both also 18, Haidl now faces a March trial for allegedly raping and then sexually molesting the girl with a cigarette, Snapple bottle and a pool stick. Defense lawyers claim the girl consented to the sex before she passed out and the teenagers activated the video camera. All three teenagers face life in prison if convicted.
Downing, Hunt and Haidl did not respond to interview requests.
A transcript of the Oct. 26 telephone call between Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Downing and Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo after deputies found accused rapist Gregory Scott Haidl--son of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl--"smoking pot" during a drug bust:
Downing: Hope I didn’t wake you up. I wanted to catch you before you went to sleep, but I just found this out myself. I’m just giving you a heads-up that Don Haidl’s son got into a little bit of trouble in our area in San Clemente. He and a couple of his friends were smoking pot behind some industrial buildings. He’s been cut loose with no citation or anything. The sergeant is going to notify Chief Haidl right now about the incident.
Jaramillo: Which son?
Jaramillo: Okay. Ummm. He didn’t get cited
Downing: No, we did not.
Downing: Yes, sir.
Jaramillo: The press will be all over this.
Downing: I know.
Jaramillo: So we got to make sure that this gets buried.
Downing: I know. That’s why I’m calling you personally. It won’t be put on the log or anything, and the chief [Haidl] is going to know. That’s our little secret.
Jaramillo: So when he got stopped, where was he?
Downing: He was in an industrial complex in San Clemente. He and a couple of his friends were smoking marijuana. They had less than one ounce and he didn’t want to give a lot of information. He told the sergeant and the deputy he lived in Rancho Cucamonga, but they found out he was staying with his mother in San Clemente.
Jaramillo: Uh-huh. Okay. So the long and the short of it is they did not arrest him?
Downing: No, they did not. But that was a decision made by Bill Hunt.
Jaramillo: How long ago was this?
Downing: This was . . . I just got the phone call five minutes ago.
Jaramillo: I’m going to call Don [Haidl] right now.
Downing: Okay. All right, sir.
Source: OC Sheriff’s Department