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Ex-probation chief guilty of child porn: Jurors quickly convict Stuart Forrest who faces nearly four years prison
July 27, 2013, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

Stuart Forrest

Jurors deliberated less than a day before convicting Stuart James Forrest, the county’s former chief probation officer heading up a nearly 500-member department, on two felony counts of possessing child pornography.

The verdict came early Friday afternoon, less than a day after jurors began considering whether Forrest was a personal porn collector with a fetish for young nude and bound boys, as the prosecution contended, or a dedicated administrator conducting research for a new human trafficking protocol in his department.

Forrest, 62, shook his head from side to side when the first verdict was read but showed no emotion with the second, according to courtwatchers.

He now faces up to three years and eight months in prison and mandatory sex offender registration when sentenced Sept. 20. The Santa Clara County Probation Department will prepare the pre-sentencing report.

Visiting Judge Robert Atack denied a prosecution request to immediately take Forrest into custody but referenced his admitted history of attempts to take his own life, calling suicide “an awful solution.”

“My greatest concern is your own safety, to tell you the truth,” Atack said.

With its guilty decision, the jury indicated it did not believe the defense’s contention the more than 400 pornographic images and videos found on Forrest’s county-issued electronic devices were work-related. Defense attorney Jaime Leanos had also told jurors during closing arguments Thursday that law enforcement rushed to judgment after finding his name among billing information confiscated from a raided film distribution company, Azov Films

Deputy Attorney General Johnette Jauron, prosecuting Forrest before a visiting judge to avoid any conflict of interest, methodically called other law enforcement members to explain that he did not follow any of the accepted protocol for investigating child pornography such as documentation and not mixing personal and work business on the same computer.

On Dec. 20, federal investigators led by the U.S. Postal Service searched Forrest’s juvenile hall office and the San Mateo home of his parents where he spent the majority of the work week. Forrest disposed of one laptop bag and allegedly removed the hard drives of his bedroom computers before he was detained but investigators confiscated a laptop, Blackberry and thumb drive which contained photos arranged in folders and PowerPoint files with names like “Feel the sting” and “my boys.”

That same night, Forrest slashed a three-inch cut into his neck on the steps of a San Mateo church. He was subsequently hospitalized in a psychiatric unit and, 10 days later, resigned his post.

During trial, Leanos said the suicide attempt was just one of five for Forrest and said the investigation was not the only factor for a man dealing with major depression and job stress that also led him to drink. Although feeling “miserable” after being named chief probation officer in 2009, Forrest testified it was the pinnacle of his career and, despite being an administrator, still remained hands-on in investigation. Forrest was so involved he often did his own research and projects which is why child pornography is no different, several former probation employees testified.

Forrest wanted to expand the department’s human trafficking knowledge and policy because of state criminal realignment, a new push against the crime and seeing non-inclusion of exploited boys, he said.

He testified that county firewalls prevented him from Internet searches at work and the other workers said he probably didn’t have the questionable films sent to his office because county mail is opened before delivery.

He purchased and watched videos like “Beach Bums 1 and 2” because the movie covers were only “mildly suggestive” and marketed as “naturist films highlighting youth” so he wanted to confirm the material was exploitative.

However, the deputy probation officer Forrest assigned to develop a protocol on human trafficking — the reason he gave for buying five pornographic films and conducting thousands of Web searches on key words like “spanking” — testified there was no direction to focus on or research pornography like that found on his devices.

Instead, Jauron told jurors Forrest was a “collector of pornography” with a narrow fetish rather than a committed official looking at a wide spectrum of images. Once caught, she continued, he tried manipulating investigators, destroying evidence and acting as though he was above the law.

Forrest remains free from custody on $100,000 bail.

Leanos did not return a call for comment.

michelle@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

 

 

Tags: forrest, probation, jurors, county, pornography, films,


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