REDWOOD CITY -- In his first public comments on the case, former San Mateo County probation chief Stuart Forrest -- who's charged with child pornography possession -- told a jury Wednesday he lied to police when he denied ordering the illicit images.

When confronted by two detectives in December, Forrest, 61, told them he had no idea why a customer database of a child pornography mail-order company contained his personal information. But on the stand, he admitted that he had ordered several films from the company, including one of nude boys cavorting on a beach. Forrest said he'd lied to the officers because he felt they already considered him guilty.

"At that point I no longer trusted them. I wanted them out as quickly as possible," Forrest told jurors in San Mateo County Superior Court. "I felt my interviewers had already made a judgment about me."

In an afternoon of testimony full of revelations, a defense psychiatrist also claimed Forrest was molested as a boy and suffered from major depression. Forrest's mental state was so dire at one point he attempted suicide by playing Russian roulette while still head of the nearly 500-employee county department, said defense-retained psychiatrist Rahn Minagawa.


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Forrest, who retired in December after investigators found some 500 images of child pornography on his computers, testified he had the pictures as part of his research into human trafficking and child exploitation. Though he was probation's top administrator, he considered himself a "working chief" who helped his workers carry out and research various projects, including research of child porn.

One such initiative, he said, was to develop a protocol for detecting instances of human trafficking, including children exploited for pornography, among people serving court-ordered probation. Deputy Attorney General Johnette Jauron, hammered at the idea that he would be involved in work that could be carried out by his underlings or obtained from other agencies.

"You took it upon yourself to develop the child exploitation protocol for other officers?" asked a clearly skeptical Jauron. "Yes," replied Forrest.

Forrest testified that the hundreds of child pornography pictures that law enforcement agents found on computer equipment at his office and San Mateo home were part of his research. Along with the photos, agents allegedly confiscated videos titled "Beach Bums" and "Beach Bums 2." Forrest faces two counts of felony child pornography possession, which carry a maximum penalty of three years eight months behind bars.

"It's a kind of criminal activity that I wasn't really acquainted with, except through training," Forrest said of the videos. "I wanted to know a little bit more. Plus I wanted to be a resource for our own officers in researching cases."

Defense attorney Jaime Leanos asked his client about his attempt to cut his own throat just hours after the Dec. 20 meeting with the detectives in his San Mateo office. Forrest said he was unhappy even before the possibility of criminal charges. Minagawa, the psychiatrist, said Forrest's elderly father was suffering from worsening dementia, the housing crisis had hurt the value of his home in Tracy and his probation job was a "drag for him emotionally." The visit from the officers pushed him over the edge.

"It became clear that I was being investigated for a crime against children," said Forrest, who wore a dark suit and spoke in a relaxed manner during direct examination. "It was, for me, a considerable blow. I couldn't imagine, even if cleared, having any kind of career left."

Forrest added he had made two previous suicide attempts before the scandal, which began with a U.S. Postal Inspection Service probe into the child porn-selling company. Minagawa also said Forrest was molested at school by a teacher when he was 5, but the incident didn't considerably affect Forrest's life.

The case before retired Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Robert Atack is due to continue Thursday with more defense evidence. Forrest is out of jail on $100,000 bail.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes. Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.