Dustin Bingham and his attorney Stephen D. Aarons Wednesday morning in First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com
District Attorney Marco Serna, right, Deputy District Attorney Michael Nunez and Defense Attorney Stephen D. Aarons consult with Chief Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer in court Wednesday as bailiff Steve Bing looks on. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com
By MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos Daily Post
SANTA FE – Former Los Alamos County detention officer and Santa Fe County Sheriff’s deputy Dustin Bingham, 37, will spend more than four years in the Department of Corrections for five counts of criminal sexual contact with minors.
He was sentenced Wednesday morning in the First Judicial District Court by Chief Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer.
On Count 1, criminal sexual contact of a minor in the second degree (child under 13 unclothed), Bingham received a 15-year sentence with 10 years suspended and 10 years of supervised probation, with the five years to be served at 85 percent in the Department of Corrections.
On Count 2, criminal sexual contact of a minor in the third degree (child under 13 clothed) he was given a six-year suspended sentence with six years of supervised probation. The sentences for Counts 1 and 2 are to run consecutively.
For Count 3, criminal sexual contact of a minor in the fourth degree; Count 4, child solicitation by electronic communication device and Count 5, sexual exploitation of children (possession), Bingham received three 18-month suspended sentences and 18 months of supervised probation for each count to run concurrent to the sentence for Count 2.
Bingham is required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.
Judge Marlowe Sommer said Bingham may have contact with his son as allowed by Family Court. He is allowed no contact with one of the minor victims and can ask the court to review whether or not he can have contact with the other two victims upon his release.
The mother of one of the victim’s addressed the court and read a letter from her daughter asking for the harshest sentence possible. The mother of the other two victims and one of those two victims also addressed the court as well as Bingham’s grandmother.
Prior to handing down her sentence, Judge Marlowe Sommers said this is certainly an interesting case because there were two victims asking for the lightest sentence possible for Bingham and a victim who wants the maximum.
“It certainly goes to show you the nature of this type of crime. What concerns me about the defendant is really the lack of introspection. When I look at the evaluation (from Department of Corrections diagnosticians) it has said in more than one area that it did not sound as if he analyzed his thinking very much on what motivated him on his behavior,” she said. “This is an individual from what I’ve gleaned who definitely was interested in females to the degree that he enjoyed porn, that he in his evaluation said he enjoyed butts and breasts.”
“Before these crimes occurred on his nieces, he was pretty much on notice that he had an interest in the female body and his nieces were at a very attractive age for someone that enjoyed viewing porn in the female breast and butt area. One was 12, one was 17 and at that point he really needed to stay away,” Judge Marlowe Sommer said.
“They talked about how intimate really the relationship was, that you were their second dad, that you would do anything for them, you would do anything for anybody else, heart of gold. What they’re telling me is that they loved you unconditionally and that they continue to love you unconditionally no matter what. But the truth of the matter is that because they loved you unconditionally there was a line that was crossed and I think that in doing so you obviously took advantage of that unconditional love,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking today to see these two girls come up here and tell me that they don’t want you to have to go through any punishment, that they want treatment for you, that they’ve been punished enough and that really is the sum total of the tragedy of molestation in the family,” Judge Marlowe Sommer told Bingham.
“I also find it very interesting that your sister talked (to the court) about how her father never came to her rescue when she was molested by her stepdad. I find it interesting because in the back of my mind, I see that she is somewhat repeating this pattern of minimizing the situation. I know that it’s out of love for you that she’s minimizing the situation. I know that it’s out of love for you that the grandmother is sharing that she was molested but didn’t tell anybody and she got over it,” she continued.
“And really that’s not what we’re here for today, to let the victims get over it. What we’re here for today is to sentence you with all consideration of the punishment and rehabilitation included. I really think that you betrayed a trust that they gave unwittingly and I think that you had no business massaging your nieces, period, and there is no excuse in the world. Society and the legislature tells you don’t, hence you are here,” Judge Marlowe Sommer said.
“So the sentence I’m going to give you I do believe addresses punishment adequate for these crimes and will allow you to get the treatment you need. I think one of the biggest issues for you is you’re going to have the ability to have some self-effacing analysis when you’re going through this treatment because you’re certainly willing,” she said. “I know you were in counseling before you were arrested but at the evaluation you couldn’t provide any insight to the evaluator, so I don’t know what kind of progress you were making with your counselor.”
Outside the courtroom, District Attorney Marco Serna told the Los Alamos Daily Post that while he was disappointed in the sentence, he recognized that Judge Marlowe Sommer made an informed ruling. He said he found it particularly saddening to hear those speaking on Bingham’s behalf at the hearing and to witness the damage he has done by the trust he had built.
“This is what happens in molestation cases,” he said.
Serna said later in a press release that protecting northern New Mexico’s children from sexual predators remains his office’s priority and that it will continue to go after the most dangerous offenders.
“Bingham was a wolf in sheep’s clothing while he served as a sheriff’s deputy in Santa Fe County and that made him extremely dangerous. I am disappointed that he was not sentenced to more years in prison, but we will continue to seek justice for our innocent victims,” Serna said.
The case was prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Michael Nunez and Bingham was represented by Attorney Stephen D. Aarons.