A fourth alleged victim of former county Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante took the stand Thursday, recounting an incident in which she said Bustamante exposed his penis to her in his office, cornered her against the door and groped her breasts against her will.
Bustmante, who is accused of committing more than a dozen sex crimes against female county employees, had called the county worker into his office to talk about a public works contract and closed the door, said the woman, identified as Jane Doe F.
He soon took the conversation in a sexual direction, she said.
Then, she said, “he exposed himself to me” while “sitting on his executive chair.”
“He wanted me to give him a blow job,” she added.
“I said no,” the woman testified. “I kept saying I have to leave.”
But when she was walking out, she said, Bustamante cornered her, touching her breasts and trying to kiss her.
“I kept pushing back and saying I needed to leave, I needed to leave,” she testified. The date of the incident wasn’t specified but according to her testimony it occurred between early 2004 and late 2007.
An earlier incident in 2004 also involved unwanted touching from Bustamante, she said.
“He cornered me against the door, and that’s when he started touching my breasts, and tried to kiss me,” said the woman.
The testimony came on the fourth day of a preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Bustamante, who is charged with 12 sexual-related felonies and four misdemeanors, including false imprisonment, attempted sexual battery and stalking. A thirteenth felony charges him with grand theft for illegally obtaining more than $3,100 in tax funds as tuition reimbursement.
During Wednesday’s hearing, a different woman who worked for Bustamante testified he exposed himself to her in her office and masturbated.
The preliminary hearing before Judge Kazuharu Makino is expected to last through next week. When it is over, Makino will decide if there is enough evidence against Bustamante for the case to go to trial.
Throughout the proceedings, Bustamante’s defense attorney has focused on contradictions in witness testimony and questions about whether incidents with Bustamante were consensual.
At one point Thursday, attorney James Riddet’s questioning led the fourth alleged victim to apparently contradict her testimony about an incident where Bustmante allegedly performed a sex act on her in a parking structure without her consent.
In court Thursday, she indicated she had not consented and made clear her desire to return to the office.
“I told him I needed to get back” to work, the woman testified.
But, Riddet said, the woman told DA investigators in 2012 that she had “never said ‘no’,” “never said ‘stop’” and “never said to take me back.”
She had also told the district attorney’s office that, during that incident, Bustamante “would ask me ‘Do you want me to stop? Do you want me to stop?’ And I would never say ‘no.’ ”
Riddet confronted her about the apparent discrepancy.
“I needed it to stop. I needed it to stop in my mind,” the woman replied to Riddet. “I know I would have said” that I needed to go back to work.
Later in the day, two more alleged victims were called to testify.
The fifth alleged victim, Jane Doe X, said Bustamante had called her to his office the day after she filed an application for a new position at Public Works.
After closing the door behind them, Bustamante grabbed her and held her for about three minutes.
“I just kept telling him ‘no’, and to stop,” she said. “I think I told him I would scream if he didn’t let me go.”
Bustamante is facing a false imprisonment charge over the incident.
Earlier in the day, Jane Doe C, who was the main witness Wednesday, said she threatened to jump out of a moving car Bustamante was driving in order to avoid going to a parking lot alone with him.
Bustamante had driven her to a work-related meeting at a Public Works operations and maintenance building in Orange, she said, but then took a detour on their way back to the office.
“From the moment he veered off the path, [it] was a conversation of conflict, of me wanting to leave” and him wanting a hug, said the woman.
She previously testified Bustamante continued unwanted kissing and hugging of her long after she broke off their relationship.
“I opened the door and I said I would jump, because he was taking me off to an area” where “I didn’t want to go,” she said, adding that she opened the door and started to get out.
Bustamante told her if she closed the door he would take her back to the office, she said, prompting her to close the door.
But he went to the parking lot anyway, she said, stopped the car and “wanted a hug.”
The woman said she gave him a quick hug and told him they needed to go, and the two then went back to the office.
The last witness of the day, Jane Doe H, was a subordinate of Bustamante’s who relayed three incidents in an office, car and elevator for which he is facing criminal charges.
In one of those incidents, she said, Bustamante asked her to drive him to pick up his car from a repair shop. She declined.
But, she said, Bustamante then asked “my boss’s boss, in passing, if I could take him.”
That superior official, Tony Bernard, said yes, so she ultimately did agree to take Bustamante, she said.
Bustamante ended up driving, she said, but instead of going to the body shop in Santa Ana, he first took her to a parking lot at an apartment complex in Costa Mesa.
At some point, Bustamante started rubbing his penis, she said.
“He asked if I would give him a blow job. I said no, no way. And he just laughs it all off like it’s no big deal,” said the woman.
Bustamante also put his hand on her thigh, she said, “trying to go up my dress. And I pushed him down because I didn’t want to do anything, and he just laughed and continued to ejaculate.”
Under questioning from the defense, meanwhile, the woman said she had had consensual sex with Bustamante on two occasions, including at her apartment.
She agreed she also told a private investigator who was working for the defense that her incidents with Bustamante that led to criminal charges, including what happened the car, were consensual.
“The situations were consensual based on the fact that I…I just gave into them,” the woman said in court Thursday.
The final witnesses are scheduled to testify Friday morning, before the hearing resumes Tuesday afternoon.
You can reach Nick Gerda at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.