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Bustamante wants sex charges tossed, cites DA's behavior

July 19, 2012 |  7:57 pm

An attorney for Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante is asking the courts to dismiss sexual assault and battery charges against his client, saying the district attorney made "inflammatory" statements to the press about Bustamante.

Bustamante, who resigned his post in the county's public works department following an internal investigation into his workplace behavior, is charged with sexually assaulting women in his county office over an eight-year period.

James Riddet, Bustamante’s attorney, filed the motion this week in Orange County Superior Court.

Riddet alleges that the conduct of the Orange County District Attorney’s office is “so egregious” that the only possible remedy is dismissal of the case because it denies Bustamante’s right to a fair trial.

He cites several examples, including the videotaped arrest of Bustamante before a Santa Ana City Council meeting -- which was later distributed to media.

“In fact, any time there is any mention of the case or related cases, the television station replays the video of Mr. Bustamante being led away in handcuffs,” according to the complaint.

Riddet also referenced a July 3 news conference on the Bustamante case, newspaper coverage and an interview given by Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on a local radio station.

In his motion, the attorney distributed statements that allege that Bustamante targeted women of similar ethnic backgrounds, hugged victims close enough for them to feel that he was aroused and cornered victims in his office.

Susan Kang Schroeder, the chief of staff for Rackauckas, said the district attorney’s comments were extremely measured in light of all of the available details.

“He could have been way more graphic and detailed considering the amount of information that was available in this case,” she said.

She pointed to a sealed 26-page document that was presented in court for a restraining order on behalf of the seven alleged victims, which referenced 50 interviews that took place over the last four months.

Schroeder also said one of the objectives in conducting the news conference was to obtain more information about witnesses and victims.

“He’s an elected public official,” she said of Bustamante. “Of course charges against someone like that are going to garner publicity.”

The motion will be considered July 26, the same day as Bustamante’s arraignment.


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--Nicole Santa Cruz

Photo: A screen grab from a video provided by the Orange County District Attorney's Office shows Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante being taken into custody. Credit : Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times.