By Joshua Melvin
REDWOOD CITY - San Mateo County's former top probation officer "is a collector of child pornography," especially images featuring boys who are tied up and spanked, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
In her opening arguments Deputy Attorney General Johnette Jauron said Stuart Forrest, 61, had 470 images of naked boys ranging from 6 to 14 years old on computer equipment found at his San Mateo home and county office.
"He sought (it) out," she told jurors in San Mateo County Superior Court. "He had a particular fetish for it."
Forrest faces two felony counts of having child pornography, which carry a maximum penalty of three years, eight months behind bars and lifetime registration as a sex offender. Forrest retired from his job in December, after nearly three decades with the county, under the cloud of the investigation led by federal postal inspectors.
Forrest's attorney told jurors there's a simple reason for the child pornography on a work laptop computer found at Forrest's home and a thumb drive at his office: his job. Defense lawyer Jaime Leanos said his client had the images as part of his effort to draw up guidelines on human trafficking for a handful of probation officers.
Instead the investigators saw a man who was in charge of the probation department's $70 million budget and over 460 workers.
"Mr. Forrest was a big fish," he said. "They rushed to judgment."
Under state rules law enforcement agents can possess child pornography as long as it is part of an investigation, in the scope of training or other job-related purpose. Though San Jose police Sgt. Gregory Lombardo, a longtime investigator of crimes against children, testified it's unprofessional and troubling for a law enforcement agent to have the images at home.
Jauron said Forrest was trying to destroy some of those pictures hours after the San Jose police interviewed him and just before agents searched his San Mateo home. FBI agents detained him as he left the house with the laptop containing the images. One of the agents also saw him leave the house prior to that with a bag.
San Mateo County Sheriff's Lt. Ed Barberini testified he found Forrest holding a knife to his throat as his probation officer badge, wallet and a note were neatly arranged next to him. Forrest was upset and kept saying "I'm done," he said.
Barberini and a sheriff's sergeant tried to talk Forrest into putting the knife down, but he threatened them with it when they moved too close. As he noticed Forrest's neck bleeding the lieutenant made the call to stun him with a Taser. Forrest was subsequently taken to a hospital for psychiatric treatment.
When the struggle ended, Barberini read the note on the steps, which was written on the back of a San Jose police detective's business cards.
"Tell my family I'm better off," Barberini said as he read the note aloud in court. "My existence was just marking time until this moment. No more loneliness."
Forrest is out of jail on $100,000 bail. The prosecution's case is expected to continue Wednesday.
- 'Hardcore' child porn found on ex-Peninsula probation official's (Stuart Forrest) computers, feds say