General Crime

Four Witnesses Called by Defense in Former Probation Chief’s Child Porn Case

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The defendant, a psychiatrist, two family friends and a retired probation department manager all testified this afternoon in the trial of Stuart James Forrest, 61, the former San Mateo County probation chief who stands accused of possessing hundreds of images of child pornography. Forrest took the stand in his defense this morning in San Mateo County Superior Court and testified for hours about how the images and videos found in his possession were for the strict purposes of policy decisions and more research into the rising onset of human trafficking.

The former probation chief was arrested in December 2012 after being named in a complaint by the U.S. Postal Inspector that alleged he possessed the child pornography. The case was turned over to the state attorney general’s office due to the close working relationships Forrest had with county judges and the district attorney’s office over his 30-plus year career in San Mateo County. Visiting Judge Robert Atack is presiding. Wearing a dark suit and tie and with a matter-of-fact demeanor, Stuart confidently told the court that in his role, he had two main functions: he was responsible for serving the court in criminal investigations and probationary recommendations and sentencing options for offenders; and as a supervisor and administrator of the department.

Defense attorney Jaime Leanos questioned Forrest throughout the morning, at one point playing a 30-minute tape of Forrest’s initial interview with police once they had discovered his alleged possession of the material. Forrest said that with 5,500 adults and 1,800 children in the system, his department would see more than 120 different offense codes. “I was involved in every major criminal category – human trafficking was just one,” he said. With an emphasis on being a resource for his officers, Forrest said he wanted to learn the latest trends. He said through research, his office put together a protocol, in cooperation with the district attorney’s office, that was a series of interview questions that would reveal a likelihood that people were exploited, either for labor or sex.

Within the lines of questioning in the recorded interview with investigators, silence accompanied by Forrest’s denials is heard when he is asked if he used his credit card to order videos of exploited young boys through Azov Films, which were delivered to his Tracy home. He told prosecutors his e-mail had been hacked and that he had no knowledge of the tapes or the purchases. He told investigators that he’d been burglarized twice at his Tracy home in the last couple years. Forrest, who said today on the stand that he was not aware during the police interview that he was being recorded, said he felt the exchange with investigators “was more like a script than an interview.” He told the court that he denied the allegations because he was shocked and felt as though the investigators weren’t listening to him. “I felt that they were asking questions on top of questions and I didn’t feel that they were listening to me,” Forrest said. “When it became clear I was the target of the investigation, I was quite shocked.” Forrest said he ordered a film from Azov Films, which he said advertises itself as a provider of “naturous films highlighting youth.”

When asked why by Leanos, Forrest replied, “Again, I wanted to see how the material is provided and what is it’s value in terms of making policy or for the conditions of probation.” Forrest admitted that he used his own name, credit card, true address in Tracy and did not seek reimbursement from the county because there was simply no budget for it at the time. On cross examination, state Deputy Attorney General Johnette Jauron asked Forrest why he didn’t contact the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to aid him in his protocol, Forrest said it was because the task force is expert for law enforcement areas but not for probation. “They are on the front end of the law enforcement effort, but they are not involved in the supervision of probationers,” Forrest said. When Jauron asked Forrest about why so much of his research was spent on little boys, Forrest said, “As I stated earlier, I didn’t think anything adequate was being done to prevent male victimization.”

San Diego psychiatrist Rahn Minagawa, who conducted a psychological evaluation of Forrest, testified this afternoon that while Forrest grew up in an intense family, the only “risk characteristic” that Forrest showed was being molested by a teacher when he was 5 years old, something that had not been reported until today. Minagawa said Forrest showed no signs of having any deviations from normal sexual progression. He also diagnosed Forrest with Major Depressive Disorder, which he said was possibly why Forrest attempted suicide on the steps of a San Mateo church in December 2012 after police had contacted him about the charges.

Two family friends, a mother and son who’ve known Forrest through martial arts for more than 20 years, were called to the stand as character witnesses. Both Cody Aguirre, 30, and his mother, Jo-An Aguirre, separately told jurors that Forrest was one of the most “honorable” men each had ever known. The day ended with testimony from Yvonne Kalber, a retired probation department manager who worked with Forrest for nearly 20 years. Kalber, who retired in April after 22 years with the county, said she had attended training sessions with Forrest and that as a caseload worker for sex offenders, she also had to view and possess child pornography at times while investigating a case. Kalber will continue her testimony at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Copyright ? 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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