Bustamante Pleads Not Guilty

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Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante pleaded not guilty to a host of sex crimes Thursday that he allegedly committed while an executive at Orange County Public Works.

Flanked by his lawyer, James D. Riddet, and wearing a dark blue suit with a stripped tie, Bustamante was largely stoney-faced during the arraignment before Judge Gerald G. Johnston, which lasted less than 20 minutes.

On July 2, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas charged Bustamante with a total of 12 felonies and four misdemeanors and alleged that during an eight-year period Bustamante sexually terrorized at least seven women who worked for him at Public Works.

Johnston set a pretrial hearing for Aug. 30, where he will hear arguments on a motion filed last week by Riddet that all charges in the case be dropped on the grounds that Rackauckas’ conduct in the immediate aftermath of Bustamante’s arrest prevent him from getting a fair trial.

Riddet’s motion argues that Rackauckas permanently tainted the case with a series of “inflammatory” comments at a news conference and on a Los Angeles talk radio station in the days after Bustamante’s arrest.

In a news conference following the arrest, Rackauckas provided specific details of Bustamante’s alleged acts, saying the 47-year-old married father of three searched out young Latina women whom he knew to be vulnerable.

Bustamante lured the women into his office via phone calls or emails under the pretense that he wanted to discuss work-related matters, according to Rackauckas. When the women entered his office, Bustamante closed the door behind them and begin hugging them, kissing their mouths, grabbing their breasts, moving their hands toward their vaginas and masturbating in front of them, Rackauckas alleged.

Rackauckas charged Bustamante with six felony counts of false imprisonment, three of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense and one count each of stalking and attempted sexual battery by restraint.

Other charges include one misdemeanor count each of battery, assault, sexual battery and attempted sexual battery with a sentencing enhancement allegation for committing the offenses as a result of sexual compulsion and for the purpose of sexual gratification.

He faces a maximum sentence of 26 years and two months in state prison for the felony charges, plus an additional year and nine months in the Orange County Jail on the misdemeanor counts. He is also subject to a lifetime sex offender registration.

— DAVID WASHBURN

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