12 years to life
 in sexual abuse
 of boys

Mark Bustamante

A former senior mentor at Mesa County Partners, who admitted in a recent evaluation that the reason he joined the youth-focused organization was to sexually prey upon boys ages 7 to 10, was sentenced Thursday to serve 12 years to life in prison after pleading guilty to molesting four boys.

Mark Bustamante, 51, begged District Judge Richard Gurley for probation or a sentence in Mesa County Community Corrections during an emotion-packed two-hour hearing at the Mesa County Justice Center.

“I’m sorry, forgive me,” he said, turning to face a crowd of 25 people in Gurley’s courtroom, including three of his four victims.

The 12-year-to-life sentence means Bustamante must serve at least 12 years in state prison before he’s eligible for a parole hearing. Scott Burrill, Bustamante’s public defender, cited a recent study showing just 8.5 percent of sex offenders sentenced to prison under Colorado’s indeterminate structure are actually ever released.

Bustamante faced a maximum 24 years to life under an agreement with the District Attorney’s Office in which he pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault on a child.

He was arrested July 3, 2012, on suspicion of molesting two boys, ages 9 and 10, between March 2010 and May 2012 while he worked as a Partners mentor. He began as a mentor in 2009. Last summer, a third victim — a client at Mesa Developmental Services — told investigators he was molested over five years. Charging documents state the boy was under the age of 15 at the time of the assaults.

Bustamante was charged again in August after a fourth victim — a boy whom Bustamante met in a youth football program — said he was molested between January 2011 and December 2011. Bustamante was a volunteer with youth flag football and basketball teams organized by the city of Grand Junction.

Partners has said Bustamante came under scrutiny last May after a rafting trip when a staff member reported seeing him hugging a 7-year-old child for no particular reason. Partners Executive Director Joe Higgins has said Bustamante was fired when he allegedly ignored attempts by staff to be questioned about the incident.

“One of the tragedies of this case is that there are people in this community who now question whether they want their child to have a senior partner,” Deputy District Attorney Todd Hildebrandt told the judge.

In an evaluation before sentencing, Hildebrandt said Bustamante admitted to “raping a male,” in addition to forcing himself sexually on another person who was unable to give consent. He also admitted to peeping-type behavior and said the reason he joined Partners was to sexually target boys.

“There were other (victims) the defendant wasn’t admitting to,” Hildebrandt told the judge.


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