|Luke McGarry/OC Weekly|
It's rare when an Orange County Superior Court judge is the most uncomfortable person in the courtroom, but John Conley couldn't hide his displeasure during a Jan. 16 hearing. A former prosecutor educated at an elite, private New England prep school and known for a distinguished presence, Conley is presiding over a case with lascivious story lines straight out of a lame, 1970s porno. The defendant, Carlos Bustamante--a fired county executive, onetime Santa Ana city councilman and, at least in his own mind, rising, family-values star in the Republican Party--spent years throwing himself at women other than his wife, according to pending criminal charges.
But during a media-packed session in which Bustamante sat slouched, stone-faced and almost entirely silent at the defense table, Conley aimed his ire at prosecutors Matt Lockhart and Aleta Bryant. The scene was remarkable because in our county it's usually defense lawyers who unnerve judges. This day, however, Conley saw the Orange County district attorney's office (OCDA)--not Bustamante--as advancing the indefensible by trying to turn vulgar but non-criminal or, at worst, misdemeanor acts into supposed felonies.More »