SoCal Lawyer Gets Jail for Paying Bail Bondsmen for Clients

A prominent defense lawyer and associate of indicted Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona was sentenced to six months in jail and fined $10,000 on Friday for paying bail bondsmen to send him clients.

Superior Court Judge Carla Singer, rejecting Joseph Gerard Cavallo's request to avoid jail time, ordered him to begin serving his sentence on March 7. He must also serve three years probation.

"Corruption of the criminal justice system is unsettling for everyone," Singer said.

Cavallo, 52, of Irvine, pleaded guilty in October to three felony counts of conspiring to engage in attorney capping, conspiring to solicit illegal bail bond referrals and receiving illegal bail bond referrals.

"He made a mistake and he's owned up to it," Cavallo's attorney, John Barnett, said outside court.

Two former bail bondsmen involved in the scheme pleaded guilty in February and got four-month prison terms. Prosecutors said that between 2003 and 2005, they kept Cavallo's business cards at Xtreme
Bail Bonds in Santa Ana and told employees to refer clients to him.
Cavallo paid them $50,000, prosecutors contended.

State law prohibits bail bond workers from recommending any attorney to a client. Lawyers are barred from paying non-attorneys for referrals.

Cavallo is noted for defending Greg Haidl, the son of a former assistant sheriff, against charges that he and friends gang-raped an unconscious 16-year-old girl on a pool table and videotaped the attack. Haidl was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.

Cavallo also briefly defended former Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo against corruption charges. Jaramillo was convicted and sentenced to a year in jail.

Cavallo also was an associate of Carona, the Orange County sheriff who is on leave while he fights federal corruption charges.

The charges include allegations that Carona, Jaramillo and Haidl's father, Donald Haidl, conspired to send cases to Cavallo in return for a share of the legal fees. Cavallo was not charged in that case.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-12-14-07 1608EST

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