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Santa Ana councilman ordered to stay away from alleged victims

A judge granted restraining orders banning any contact between seven alleged victims and a Santa Ana councilman who is facing multiple sexual assault charges.

In Carlos Bustamante’s first court appearance since his arrest Monday, he shook his head while Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Aleta Bryant detailed the need for an order to protect the accusers from intimidation.

The 47-year-old former administration manager in Orange County’s public works department has been charged with a dozen felonies including attempted sexual battery, stalking, fraud and six counts of false imprisonment for incidents that occurred over eight years.

Bryant said the women remain fearful of Bustamante.

“Nothing has changed relative to the intimidation of those women,” she said.

Bustamante’s attorney, James Riddet, also requested a gag order for the case, which was denied by Judge Gerald G. Johnson.

Riddet said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas is impacting Bustamante’s right to a fair trial by releasing detailed, harmful and prejudicial information about the case to the media.

“I’ve never believed we should try the case in the media,” Riddet said. “I believe we should try the case in the courtroom.”

When officials arrested Bustamante in a parking lot Monday, the district attorney's office recorded a video of the apprehension and distributed it to the media, a move Riddet questioned. 

Rackauckas said Bustamante is a public official in a public office so it is necessary to let citizens know about the crimes.

“There’s a great deal of interest in this case,” Rackauckas said in the courtroom.

After the hearing, Riddet told reporters that Rackauckas has released “lurid details” about unproven allegations to the public.

“I’m very hopeful that this practice will stop,” Riddet said, then added that he will be limiting his public statements about the case to the courtroom. 

Rackauckas said he doesn't believe he "crossed any lines."

He added that the Bustamante investigation is ongoing. “How could it be that he was never punished or stopped?” he asked.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

 
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