Stuart James Forrest, the former San Mateo County chief probation officer who retired after federal investigators raided his office in December on suspicion he possessed child pornography, allegedly had more than 400 images and yesterday was charged with two felonies.
Forrest is charged with two counts of possessing -- once on Dec. 20 and another on Dec. 21 -- matter involving a person under the age of 18 having or simulating sexual conduct or exposing their private areas, according to the complaint filed Feb. 21 by the state Attorney General's Office.
Forrest, who was placed on a psychiatric hold after attempting to kill himself shortly following the search of his home and office, is currently free from custody and expected to surrender himself. The Attorney General's Office declined to comment further on the charges or when Forrest may turn himself in, according to spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill.
The investigation into Forrest's alleged conduct involved several agencies, with the U.S. Postal Service taking the lead because it may have involved material sent through the mail. The U.S. Attorney General's Office declined to handle the prosecution and local prosecutors asked the state to take over because of Forrest's previous position in San Mateo County and involvement with other public safety agencies.
"We asked to avoid the appearance of a conflict. We do not have one but I have served on so many different commissions and committees with him that we want to ensure the appearance of impartiality. That is why we asked an outside agency, the attorney general, to handle it," said District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
An outside judge is also expected to oversee the court proceedings rather than any belonging to the San Mateo County Superior Court.
Forrest worked for the San Mateo County Probation Department since November 1977 and was appointed chief in 2009 to oversee the Probation Department's $76 million budget and approximately 400 employees. On Dec. 21, 2012, federal agents served warrants at the Youth Services Center where his office was located and confiscated computers. He was also placed on paid administrative leave.
The search turned up 400 images of child pornography on a USB drive and a laptop computer, according to a federal search warrant.
A hard drive on a desktop computer in Forrest's home had been removed, according to the document.
Later that day, Forrest attempted to commit suicide on the steps of a church in the San Mateo Highlands neighborhood when approached by Sheriff's deputies who shocked him with a Taser. He was taken into custody for a 72-hour psychiatric evaluation that was later extended.
Forrest resigned his position Dec. 31 by having a family member deliver the paperwork to San Mateo County. Forrest, who earned $140,004 in 2012, could still collect his county pension unless the investigation proves his alleged illegal conduct involved work-related locations or property, such as an office computer.
Forrest is also a martial arts instructor and mediator with the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center in San Mateo.
In January, the San Mateo County Superior Court appointed Calvin Remington as interim probation officer until a permanent replacement for Forrest is named. Remington previously served in the same temporary role from December 2008 until Forrest's appointed in 2009 after former probation officer Loren Buddress retired. Buddress' exit followed rocky years in which a teenage murder defendant escaped from juvenile hall and another teenager walked away from a detention camp and was arrested for a subsequent murder.
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