Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante's defense attorney said Thursday he wants a judge to throw out Bustamante's sexual-assault charges because of the way prosecutors have released information about the case.
Bustamante attorney James Riddet filed a motion Monday asking that the
charges—that he assaulted seven women while he was an executive with the Orange County Public Works Department—be tossed out, alleging that O.C. prosecutors have violated the California rules of professional conduct.
"I'm sick of it,'' Riddet said of the way prosecutors release information about defendants.
Susan Kang Schroeder, Orange County district attorney's chief of staff, defended how the office handled dissemination of information in Bustamante's
Riddet accused Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas of making
"really inflammatory'' comments about Bustamante in a news release as well
as during a news conference and in a radio interview on KFI radio.
Riddet pointed to Rackauckas' reference to Bustamante as a "wolf" in his motion.
The defense attorney also mentioned in his motion the "perp walk," of
Bustamante as district attorney officials videotaped the defendant's arrest on
his way to a Santa Ana City Council meeting.
"A lot of times the agents will arrest someone and tip off the media ahead of time, so there will be a perp walk,'' Riddet said. "But in this case, the District Attorney went to the trouble of videotaping the arrest themselves and distributing it to the media, and it showed up on news channels. I've never
seen that happen before.''
Riddet said he called prosecutors before his client's arrest and asked if he could surrender to authorities.
The defense attorney also objected to Rackauckas' statement that prosecutors plan to introduce evidence at trial regarding a dozen other victims even though Bustamante has not been charged with those alleged assaults because of the statute of limitations in some cases.
Riddet argues in his motion that the comments made by prosecutors will
make it difficult for his client to get a fair trial and that the charges should be thrown out as a deterrent in future cases.
Riddet raised many of the same issues when Bustamante made his first appearance in court on the charges this month and asked Orange County Superior Court Judge Gerald Johnston for a gag order, which was denied.
Riddet said in his motion that "the district attorney's office has little or no regard for the right of Mr. Bustamante to a fair trial. But just a gag order is not sufficient here. Perhaps it would be if the statements were not so blatant,'' Riddet said in his motion. "Here, however, this court must take strong action to sanction the prosecutor's office for this conduct. That sanction must be a dismissal of the charges.''
Schroeder said the charges against Bustamante are "lurid'' by nature and that her office did its best to avoid details while releasing information.
"We were as measured in our description as possible,'' Schroeder said. She said Bustamante cannot be expected to be treated differently from other accused sex offenders.
"This is yet another example of the defendant trying, through power and privilege, to be treated differently than other similarly situated defendants,'' Schroeder said.
Schroeder also defended the "perp walk," saying it's been done many times before and that it yielded more tips from witnesses.
"From the moment the press conference occurred, we started to receive information from witnesses coming forward,'' Schroeder said, adding many of the victims were "extremely traumatized and petrified of the defendant.''
Bustamante was scheduled to be arraigned July 26. The motion to dismiss charges is expected to be considered then.
Bustamante is accused of sexually assaulting the women with whom he worked while he was an executive with the Public Works Department. The alleged assaults happened between 2003 and last year, according to Rackauckas.
Bustamante is charged with six counts of false imprisonment, three counts of assault with the intent to commit a sexual offense and one count each of stalking, attempted sexual battery by restraint and grand theft by false
pretense, according to the Orange County district attorney's office. The grand
theft charge stems from expense reports he submitted after attending a 2 1/2-
week program in Boston.
He also faces one misdemeanor count each of battery, assault, sexual battery and attempted sexual battery. The charges include sentence-enhancing
allegations of committing the offenses as a result of sexual compulsion and for
the purpose of sexual gratification.
—City News Service