Radio Hosts Gleefully Try to Taint Jurors

John Kobylt, left, and Ken Chiampou have made "Taint the Carona Jury Pool" a regular segment.
John Kobylt, left, and Ken Chiampou have made "Taint the Carona Jury Pool" a regular segment. (By Vince Compagnone -- Los Angeles Times)
By Ashley Surdin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 17, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- There is such a thing as tainting a jury, and then there is what two Southern California talk show hosts say they are engaging in -- "blatant tainting" of a jury.

Indeed, the actions of the two "shock jocks," John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of KFI-AM in Los Angeles, have prompted defense attorneys for a former Orange County sheriff facing federal corruption charges to ask the judge to move the trial.

In a segment of their morning show that they dubbed "Taint the Carona Jury Pool," Kobylt and Chiampou regularly dish about the upcoming trial of Michael S. Carona, the 52-year-old former sheriff charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and public corruption.

Last year's 10-count indictment accuses Carona, his wife and a "longtime mistress" of conspiring to elect him and use the office for their own benefit. In exchange for cash, loans and gifts -- a boat, use of private planes and yachts -- totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, Carona and his alleged conspirators purportedly offered, among other things, public office appointments and "Get Out of Jail Free" cards, according to the indictment.

Carona, who retired in January after nearly 10 years in office and is out on bail, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

But that means nothing to Kobylt and Chiampou, who argue on their program, "The John and Ken Show," that secretly recorded conversations between Carona and a former assistant sheriff incriminate him.

Convinced that jury consultants will weed out "intelligent people," they also have instructed their listeners to trick lawyers during voir dire, the process during which potential jurors are questioned.

"You know your marching orders out there," Kobylt says in one segment. "If you're in Orange County and you end up on the Mike Carona jury, remember you have to lie to the attorneys.

"Tell them you have an absolute open mind, you pay very little attention to the coverage, Mike Carona looks like a good, upstanding Christian man, you never listen to KFI, you never listen to 'The John and Ken Show' -- and then you vote guilty at the end of it all."

"You're tainting!" Chiampou admonishes, unconvincingly.

"That's right!" Kobylt says. "There's some blatant tainting going on!"

Brian A. Sun, one of Carona's attorneys, declined to comment on the radio program. The change-of-venue motion, filed last month, argues that the "unrelentingly hostile," "toxic publicity" of the show and "prejudicial newspaper articles" have compromised the court's ability to ensure a fair trial.

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