Santa Ana City Councilman Facing Sexual Assault Allegations
It's been an intense month for public officials in Santa Ana, where a city councilman stands accused of dozens of sexual assault allegations, mostly while he was a supervisor in the county's public works department.
Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer Houman Fakhimi understands that the majority of these cases involve women who worked for Councilman Carlos Bustamante in his previous post.
Among the charges he faces: three felony counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, six felony counts of false imprisonment, and a single count each of attempted sexual battery by restraint, stalking, misuse of public funds and grand theft. He also faces a handful of misdemeanor charges of sexual assault, battery and assault.
These charges are series and the potential penalties severe. It will be interesting to see what tactic is employed by the official's defense attorneys.
Despite the fact that there are a number of alleged victims, there doesn't seem to be any other witnesses to each specific act alleged. Similarly, we don't know what the motivation might be at this point for the women to come forward now, and that could be a factor in how the defense proceeds.
To understand what exactly the councilman is facing, we need to break down each charge. But first, it's important to have a little background.
According to the Los Angeles Times, female staffers said the councilman would lure them into his office, corner them and then touch or kiss them. He reportedly told several of them that his office was soundproof. In some cases, he reportedly pinned them against the wall and masturbated in front of them.
With regard to the false imprisonment charges, which are defined in California Penal Code 236 PC, it's a felony charge, but it's as simple as restraining, confiding or detaining a person unlawfully without his or her consent. In a lot of cases, this is charged as a misdemeanor. However, it can be considered a felony if you use violence or some physical force, if you use menace or threats of implied violence or if you use fraud or deceit.
Possible defenses to this charge include: You were protecting yourself, or the person had actually consented or you have been falsely accused.
With regard to the sexual battery charges, it's a mistake to think that you can't be charged if no intercourse occurs. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, and under California Penal Code Section 243.4, it requires only that someone engages in non-consensual touching of an intimate part of another person for purposes of sexual gratification, arousal or abuse. If the victim is an employee, the penalties can be increased.
All total, Bustamante faces 26 years behind bars if convicted on all charges.
His attorney has vigorously denied that his client is guilty. In fact, he recently moved for a dismissal based on statements that prosecutors made to the media that he characterized as inflammatory and derogatory.
This is a case we'll be watching closely.
Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime in Orange County.