The county’s former chief probation officer currently serving 10 months in jail for possessing child pornography will not also have to pay restitution to five boys featured in the personal collection that led to his early retirement and felony conviction, a judge ruled Friday.
Visiting Santa Cruz County Judge Robert Atack said that the prosecution didn’t prove that the victims’ economic claim was a result of Stuart Forrest’s criminal conduct because the dollar amounts submitted to the court were based on a report generated a year prior to his conduct. Atack said the amounts, which were not immediately available, are not consistent with Forrest’s actions and he has no other way to accurately calculate restitution. To do otherwise would be an “abuse of the court’s discretion,” he ruled.
Forrest is already serving jail time and has lifetime sex offender registration after a jury in July convicted him on two felony counts of child pornography possession. Although a unique tactic in county prosecution of pornography possession, state prosecutors sought restitution from Forrest for some of the boys on movies purchased or viewed by Forrest. The state prosecuted Forrest to avoid any conflict of interest because of Forrest’s close working relationship with county judges and prosecutors.
During his September sentencing, Forrest apologized but has not swayed from his claim he purchased and viewed the pornography to conduct research for a new human trafficking protocol in his department in response to state realignment. His defense also claimed law enforcement rushed to judgment.
He faced up to three years and eight months in prison but received the lesser sentence in September.
Forrest headed up a nearly 500-member department as chief probation officer until December when federal investigators led by the U.S. Postal Service searched Forrest’s juvenile hall office and the San Mateo home of his parents after finding his name among the receipts confiscated from a raided film distribution company, Azov Films. During the Dec. 20 search, investigators confiscated a county-issued laptop, Blackberry and thumb drive which contained more than 400 pornographic images and videos. 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.
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