REDWOOD CITY -- Stuart Forrest, accused of possessing child pornography while serving as San Mateo County's chief probation officer, was led away in handcuffs Friday morning from a secretive hearing on the eighth floor of the Hall of Justice after pleading not guilty to two felony charges.
Forrest, wearing a dark gray suit with a light gray tie, appeared to be momentarily overcome with emotion as sheriff's deputies pulled his hands behind his back and cuffed him. His attorney, Jaime Leanos, consoled him and helped remove Forrest's keys and phone from his pockets.
Forrest was charged Thursday by state prosecutors with two counts of knowingly possessing material showing people under the age of 18 exposing themselves or engaging in sexual conduct. He resigned from his $140,000 post in December after law enforcement agents, as part of an investigation led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, searched his county office.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who has served with Forrest on various law enforcement-related commissions, turned the prosecution over to Attorney General Kamala Harris to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest.
"I want the public to feel there's not even any suggestion of impropriety," Wagstaffe said.
The county further removed itself from the process when Robert Foiles, presiding judge for the Superior Court, asked for an outside judge to be brought in to hear the case, since
Forrest's arraignment, presided over by retired Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Robert Atack, was marked by secrecy and extra security. The hearing was not listed on Friday's court calendar. The proceedings were monitored by a plainclothes security officer who afterward escorted Deputy Attorney General Johnette Jauron out of the courtroom through an interior door.
Jauron did not respond to an email regarding the case, and a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office declined to comment.
Forrest was booked into San Mateo County jail after the hearing and was released later in the day after posting $100,000 bail. He is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing April 9.
Leanos, Forrest's attorney, said outside court that he hadn't had a chance to review all the discovery in the case and therefore couldn't comment.
A reporter reached Forrest by phone Thursday night. He said "no comment" and hung up.
Deputies responded to a welfare check involving Forrest on the night of Dec. 20 on the property of Crystal Springs United Methodist Church in the San Mateo Highlands neighborhood, according to the Sheriff's Office. The deputies found Forrest with a knife and subdued him with a Taser, a spokeswoman said.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.