The trial of former Orange County Public Works executive Carlos Bustamante on felony charges he sexually abused women who worked under him was set Friday for Nov. 14 before Superior Court Judge John Conley.
Ironically, Superior Court Judge Gregg L. Prickett initially ordered Bustamante to appear for trial before Judge Thomas M. Goethals, a move immediately rejected by prosecutors with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Goethals is the judge who presided over a six-month hearing into the DA’s use of jailhouse informants against accused mass murderer Scott Evans Dekraai. In the end, Goethals barred the DA’s office from using any information gathered through the informants and said “prosecutorial errors” in the Dekraai case “constitute significant negligence and that they rise to the level of misconduct.”
The DA’s office was allowed to proceed with the Dekraai case, but Goethals’ ruling forced District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to acknowledge problems in his office and request a dozen paralegals be added to his staff right away to help prosecutors with their workload.
As soon as Prickett mentioned Goethals name as the trial judge in the Bustamante case, Senior Deputy District Attorney Aleta Bryant told him there was “an affidavit” regarding Goethals, meaning her office wanted a different judge. Prosecutors are allowed one such challenge.
Buatamante, a former Santa Ana city councilman and protégé of county Republican leaders, is accused of systematically targeting at least seven vulnerable women working for him at the county Public Works Department, stalking them and then sexually terrorizing them.
He has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers have argued the sex was consensual. Attorney Gina Kershaw Friday told Prickett the Bustamante team would file documents this fall seeking dismissal of the charges.