SANTA ANA – Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona, his wife and alleged former mistress pleaded not guilty today in Santa Ana to corruption- related counts. Carona and his wife, Deborah, and Debra Victoria Hoffman appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc Goldman, who set a trial date of Dec. 18. But attorneys said outside the courthouse that the case, stemming from a three-year investigation, is complicated and the trial may not begin before August. Outside court, Carona — who has refused to resign — said: “Obviously there will be a portion of my time that will need to be devoted to defending myself in this legal action. I am prepared, and members of my staff are prepared to give me the support to be able to have the time to accomplish that goal. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “You have to understand the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is a well-structured, well-designed organization with a very solid command team,” Carona continued. “I have been meeting with the undersheriff and the assistant sheriffs since this indictment was unsealed, talking about exactly how we will run the department during this difficult time. “Understand that we have a plan,” Carona said. “I will roll that out for you this week. I will not be resigning. There are constitutional responsibilities that can only be handled by me as the sheriff. The day-to-day operations can be handled by the undersheriff and the assistant sheriffs within the department. “In fact, that’s what happens on an on-going basis,” he said. The plan will detail “how I’ll run the department, how we’ll run the department and how I’ll be able to free my time up to be able to do that. “I’m not resigning because I’m not guilty,” he said, adding, “I’m going back to work.” Carona and his wife are free on $20,000 each. Hoffman is free on $10,000 bond. Carona, his wife and Hoffman are each charged with one count of conspiracy. Carona and Hoffman — described by authorities as the sheriff’s longtime mistress — also are charged with four counts each of mail fraud depriving the public of the right of honest services of a public official. Carona additionally faces a count of witness tampering, and Hoffman is charged with three counts of bankruptcy fraud. The three are accused of using the sheriff’s office to enrich themselves by accepting cash payments, a vacation in Lake Tahoe and access to the private plane and yacht of businessman Don Haidl. Haidl, who lacked law enforcement qualifications, was named an assistant sheriff after Carona was elected, court papers alleged. Authorities further allege that Carona was boosted into office by Haidl, who made $1,000 monthly payments in exchange for full access to the resources of the sheriff’s department and a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. Haidl helped Carona get elected and was appointed in January 1999 to the position of assistant sheriff as payback, the government alleges. The witness tampering charge alleges that he tried to get Haidl to lie to the federal grand jury. Prosecutors allege Haidl began the financial end of his association with Carona before Carona’s election by making several $1,000 campaign “conduit contributions” that concealed that Haidl was the true source of the funds. Besides the cash, prosecutors allege, gifts included a Lake Tahoe vacation, a boat and boat trailer and use of Haidl’s private plane and yacht. Deborah Carona was given a $15,000 Cartier watch, prosecutors allege. Haidl gave Hoffman and George Jaramillo, an assistant sheriff until Carona fired him in March 2004, a $110,000 loan to revive their law firm, the indictment alleges. Hoffman is accused of bankruptcy fraud for allegedly failing to disclose various economic interests, including the loan and payments from Haidl. The conspiracy charge alleges in part that the three covered up and concealed the cash payments, loans, gifts and other benefits by failing to declare them on their Statements of Economic Interest and other public documents. If convicted, Carona and Hoffman face maximum of sentences of nearly 100 years in prison and fines up to $2 million. Carona’s wife faces up to five years and a $250,000 fine. Carona has denied all of the allegations included in the 10-count federal complaint. Haidl and Jaramillo were charged separately, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brett Sagel. Both men pleaded guilty last March to federal charges and face sentencing on June 23. Jaramillo, who is serving a one-year sentence in a separate state case for lying to a grand jury and misusing a county helicopter, pleaded guilty to federal charges of depriving the public of his honest services, mail fraud and tax fraud, while Haidl admitted a tax offense. Carona, in a recorded conversation last Aug. 13, encouraged Haidl to withhold evidence in order to make false statements to the grand jury, the court papers allege. ——————————————- For the latest news and observations on crime in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, check out the Daily News’ crime blog by clicking here.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!