Former county Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante came into a female subordinate’s office without invitation, exposed his penis and touched himself “until he ejaculated,” the woman testified in court Wednesday.
The employee, identified as Jane Doe C, said Bustamante in 2010 entered her Public Works Department office, closed the door and then began “sexual talk” that led to him masturbating in front of her, she testified in Orange County Superior Court.
The testimony came on the third day of a preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Bustamante, who is accused of committing more than a dozen sex crimes against female county employees.
He is charged with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors, which include false imprisonment, attempted sexual battery and stalking.
One theme throughout the testimony has been that Bustamante’s political associations made him untouchable within the county bureaucracy. He was an up-and-coming figure in the Republican party and a member of the Santa Ana city council at the time he is accused of sexually assaulting women who worked for him.
That theme was present on Wednesday as well, with the third witness saying she feared reporting Bustamante, in part, because of his connections with the county CEO, Board of Supervisors and then California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2008, the governor had appointed Bustamante to the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission.
Additionally, she said she was afraid of retaliation for speaking up and wanted to avoid creating “conflict” in her workplace.
The preliminary hearing before Judge Kazuharu Makino is expected to last up to six more days and include testimony from all of the women Bustamante is accused of sexually assaulting. Makino will determine if there’s enough evidence for Bustamante to stand trial.
Wednesday’s witness, an alleged stalking victim, started working in the public works department in 2007 at a lower level than Bustamante. The next year, he became her boss’s boss.
A few weeks after she started at Public Works, the woman testified, Bustamante invited her to lunch and then kissed her without her permission in an isolated walkway of a local theater.
When he tried to kiss her again, she said, she pushed him away.
Later that day, she testified, he reached his hand up her skirt without permission while in a car.
“I just kind of freaked out about it,” the woman testified.
“I asked him to stop,” she added, saying she blocked him with her hands.
Eventually, however, she said the two of them had a consensual relationship that extended from the end of 2007 through 2008.
But after she told Bustamante in late 2008 that their relationship was over, she said, he continued to visit her in her office and insist on being hugged and kissed.
“He still continued to [visit me], as if nothing happened,” the woman testified.
Despite her resistance, she said, he continued to touch her in her office “many times.”
That included kissing her and touching her breasts without her permission, she said.
Because of his high-level position, she said, she couldn’t simply tell him to leave.
The woman also related an incident in the first half of 2010 where Bustamante allegedly took her to an empty floor of a bank building and wouldn’t return her to work until she hugged and kissed him.
Bustamante’s defense attorney, meanwhile, focused much of his questioning on the woman’s acknowledgement that she had sex with Bustamante on multiple occasions – all of them consensual.
Under questioning by attorney James Riddet, she also acknowledged telling others that her sex with Bustamante was “really good.”
Riddet accused the woman of lying to DA investigators when she told them she “didn’t even know” if she had sex with Bustamante.
“The response was a lie, wasn’t it?” he remarked. The woman replied that she wasn’t in state of mind to talk about it at the time of the DA’s interview.
Wednesday’s testimony centered on whether Bustamante stalked Jane Doe C, and led to a lengthy debate over what actually constitutes stalking.
The felony stalking charge revolves around Bustamante allegedly showing up uninvited to the woman’s house in April 2010, long after their relationship ended.
Bustamante allegedly wrote her an email saying he wanted to bring her lunch at home.
She said she replied that he shouldn’t, because she needed to stay home to get her work done.
But he allegedly showed up anyway, knocking on her door while calling her on the phone multiple times.
The woman said she “stayed in my room, and I hid out.”
She said she was concerned “that he would make a pass at me. That it would turn into something else…that he wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
The stalking charge, according to the criminal complaint, is covered by the penal Code 646.9(a), and is defined as maliciously following or harassing someone while having also made a “credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family.”
Makino had to repeatedly question the woman about at exactly what point she felt threatened and to pinpoint when she felt she might be physically hurt.
“There were situations that he put me in where I was afraid,” the woman said in one of several vague or silent responses.
“l don’t know that I was in danger, but I was constantly being harassed,” she said at another point.
Eventually, under questioning from the District Attorney’s team, the woman said she feared unwanted physical touching of her body.
Riddet, the defense attorney, also sought to put the prosecutors themselves on trial.
Riddet pointed to a transcript of statements by Deputy District Attorney Aleta Bryant during her May 2012 interview of Jane Doe C regarding potential charges in the case.
“I’m still thinking about a stalking charge here,” Bryant remarked in her interview with the witness.
Riddet suggested it could be “evidence that that district attorney influenced” the woman by saying what they believed the facts and crimes were.
Bryant, on the other hand, said her remarks were made near the end of her final interview with the witness.
The judge ultimately said he didn’t see it as a big issue.
“I am the trier of fact here and it’s not particularly important to me,” Makino said of Bryant’s statements.
Testimony from the same witness is scheduled to continue Thursday morning.
You can reach Nick Gerda at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.
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