DA decries light sentence for ex-deputy in molestation case

  • By Justin Horwath | The New Mexican
  • Updated
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DA decries lighter sentence for ex-deputy in molestation case
Dustin Bingham is pictured in May in District Court. Luis Sánchez Saturno/New Mexican file photo

Two teenage girls who were sexually molested by Dustin Bingham, an extended family member and former Santa Fe County sheriff’s deputy, asked a state district judge for leniency at his sentencing hearing Wednesday, District Attorney Marco Serna said.

Serna said such behavior is not uncommon among victims of sexual molestation within families; the girls’ mother also asked District Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer for leniency in sentencing Bingham, a relative of the mother.

Serna, whose office on Wednesday issued a statement calling Bingham a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” said all three family members “minimized” the molestation.

“They loved their family member despite what he did,” the district attorney said.

Marlowe Sommer on Wednesday sentenced Bingham to 15 years in prison but suspended 10 years, Serna said, ordering him to undergo 10 years of supervised probation.

“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,” Serna’s news release said. “I am disappointed that he was not sentenced to more years in prison, but we will continue to seek justice for our innocent victims.”

Bingham in November pleaded guilty to five felony counts in the high-profile case brought by Serna’s office in August.

The 37-year-old former lawman admitted to fondling the girls, whom he had watched after and who were under the age of 18 during the time of the criminal sexual contact. Bingham also pleaded guilty to two felony counts of child solicitation through electronic communication and sexual exploitation of children in connection with communications he had with a girl who was not a relative.

Serna said the girl whom Bingham admitted soliciting online told the judge that Bingham deserved the maximum prison sentence of 25 years and described to the judge the psychological damage of the abuse.

Bingham on Wednesday apologized and asked for leniency, according to Serna.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Robert Garcia said in an interview on Wednesday that Bingham “got what he deserved” and that he has “no sympathy for people like this.”

According to the affidavit for Bingham’s arrest, the molesting occurred between November 2015 and April 2017. The girls had told Bingham’s father about the abuse, the affidavit says, and when the father confronted his son, Bingham told him, “Dad, I’m guilty,” according to the affidavit. The father told police that he tried to handle the situation with religious leaders at the Mormon church the family attends in Los Alamos, the affidavit says. But he then decided to report the allegations to police.

Los Alamos police arrested Bingham in May.

Bingham resigned from the sheriff’s office in February amid an internal investigation, after working there since April 2015, the sheriff has said. Bingham previously worked for the Los Alamos Police Department.


Justin Horwath can be reached at 505-986-3017 or jhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.