In his attempt to evade convictions on multiple pervert-related criminal charges, Carlos Bustamante–the ex-Santa Ana city councilman and $179,000 a year county executive–is expected by prosecutors to employ a trial defense that could be summed up in a single word: ignorance.
In other words, Bustamante–a married father with several kids–will hope future jurors believe he did not understand there could be a problem by subjecting six female government employees to unwelcomed kissing, hugging, fondling and sex demands–or that they would be disgusted by him masturbating in their presence during work.
But the onetime Republican Party rising star and a small project real estate developer who'd dreamed of becoming a county supervisor now may face a hurdle denying criminal intent about his alleged 2009-2011 activities.
Prosecutor Aleta Bryant and her investigators have obtained evidence that Bustamante's abusive conduct with women dates back to 1998 when he worked as a California Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) investigator busting businesses serving booze to teenagers.
According to Bryant, Bustamante, who began working at ABC in 1995, harassed a new employee.
"Bustamante began contacting Chau T. at the office and making sexually inappropriate comments to her," Bryant told Superior Court Judge John Conley in March. "This behavior escalated one evening when they were both assigned as part of a larger group of investigators working in the field. The abuse escalated even further on the night Bustamante was assigned as Chau T.'s [field training officer] for an evening shift, and the second FTO who also had been assigned to Chau T. that night went home sick, leaving her alone with the defendant."
Bryant sees an "uncanny and remarkable consistency and similarity" between Bustamante's alleged conduct at ABC and the later alleged incidents.
"During the course of that evening, the defendant's sexual abuse and assault against Chau T. began with inappropriate sexual comments, and progressed all the way to assaulting her with the intent to commit oral copulation, including the following acts and conduct, and notwithstanding her repeated rebukes and refusals throughout the night to engage in the requested conduct and her repeated demands that he stop and leave her alone: kissing her; hugging her; driving her to remote and isolated locations; removing her from the car and placing his hands up her sweater; removing her gun from her holster; unzipping her pants and putting his hand down her pants while trying to touch her vagina; trying to pull her onto his lap; taking his erect penis out of his pants; requesting she perform oral copulation on him and pushing her head towards his penis; placing her hand on his erect penis; and continuing to pursue her after the incident."
Bustamante left his job in the wake of an ABC personnel investigation into the affair. Bryant obtained Chau T.'s cooperation, but she also wanted the state agency to surrender its related records. The California Attorney General's office initially balked. In this state, police agencies are allowed to keep the public clueless about law enforcement officer misdeeds. But the prosecutor said part of the files are important to her case.
According to Bryant, "The evidence would be relevant and material to the trial in this action in light of Bustamante's denial of the allegations and the anticipated defenses to be proffered at trial as to the sexual offenses alleged, that defendant Bustamante lacked any lawful or criminal intent or knowledge in his conduct with these victims."
In mid-April, Conley ordered the records produced for his inspection to see what portions Bryant can use, and he also signed a protective order requiring that the documents remain secret until he says otherwise.
During Bustamante's 2007 unsuccessful race for county supervisor, Phil Greer, his campaign lawyer, sent a cease and desist order to rival candidates protesting their raising of concerns about events at ABC.
"No such claim of sexual harassment has ever been filed against Mr. Bustamante regarding his conduct while a member of [ABC]," Greer wrote at the time. "In fact, Mr. Bustamante has never been the subject of any sexual harassment complaint at any time during his career."
It's clear from Bryant's declarations that Bustamante was, in fact, the target of a harassment investigation.
Free from custody on bail, the defendant faces five felony charges (attempted sexual battery, stalking, two false imprisonments and grand theft) as well as four misdemeanors.
Conley scheduled a Sept. 25 trial inside Orange County's central courthouse in Santa Ana.