A Superior Court Judge dismissed eight
sex-related felonies against former Orange County executive Carlos Bustamante, but
found sufficient evidence to try him on five remaining felony charges
as well as four misdemeanors. Bustamante is facing accusations from a
number his former female employees who say he groped them and exposed
himself to them over an eight-year period.
Bustamante's defense attorney argued during the weeklong preliminary
hearing that 13 felony charges was excessive, and that prosecutors were
wrongfully accusing Bustamante of persistent impropriety rather than isolated
Standard of Proof for Preliminary Hearings
There is a much lower standard of proof for preliminary hearings than for
the actual criminal hearing. Preliminary hearings, or "prelims,"
take place only in cases in which a defendant pleads "not guilty"
at his or her arraignment.
With prelims, the only thing the prosecutor is responsible for doing is
supplying enough evidence to the judge to convince them that there is
sufficient probable cause to take the defendant to trial. Contrast this
with the criminal trial hearing, where the prosecutor must supply enough
evidence to convince the judge and jury that the defendant is guilty beyond
a reasonable doubt.
What the judge found in the Bustamante preliminary hearing is that the
prosecution failed to meet "even the low standard of proof on eight
out of 13 felonies," according to Bustamante's defense attorney.
Bustamante's Next Arraignment
Bustamante is still awaiting arraignment for his remaining two counts of
false imprisonment, one count of
stalking, one count of attempted sexual battery, one count of
grand theft, and the four misdemeanors. The arraignment for these charges will be
held on June 10.
Had the judge not dismissed eight of the sex-related felony charges, Bustamante
would have faced a maximum 26 years and two months in state prison as
well as one year and nine months in county jail. Since those charges were
dropped, the maximum penalty he faces is six years and eight months in
prison. Bustamante's attorney seemed happy with the outcome of the prelim.