Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Brinkin pleads not guilty
to child porn charges


Former SF Human Rights Commission staffer Larry Brinkin, left, confers with attorney Randy Knox during his court appearance Wednesday, September 26 in front of Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer Jr. Brinkin pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of child pornography. (Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland)
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The attorney for pioneering gay rights advocate Larry Brinkin entered a not guilty plea on Brinkin's behalf at his arraignment on child porn charges Wednesday, September 26 in San Francisco Superior Court before Judge Richard Ulmer Jr.

Brinkin, 66, who bailed out of custody shortly after he surrendered to police last Thursday, September 20, was wearing a dark suit with a purple tie.

Brinkin only spoke when he responded "yes" when his attorney asked if he was waiving time.

Randy Knox, Brinkin's attorney, declined to comment.

At a press conference after the arraignment, prosecutors said that Brinkin was charged with two counts of distributing child pornography and four counts of possession of child pornography.

[Updated Thursday, September 27]: District Attorney George Gascón said there was a "tremendous amount of evidence" consisting of "explicit" and "very disturbing" materials.

Leslie Cogan, the assistant district attorney prosecuting the case, said there are "numerous items of photographs as well as videos that were found," but the investigation is "ongoing." She wouldn't give a specific number of items. She said officials "know for sure" Brinkin's alleged activity goes back to October 2011.

Gascón acknowledged that people in the LGBT community may find the charges hard to believe, and that they could suspect that Brinkin's the victim of hacking, or that the materials belonged to someone else.

However, he said, "The evidence in the case indicates he was the active participant in receiving the information and passing the information out."

"A great deal of care was taken in this investigation," he added. Gascón also said his office doesn't have evidence that any of Brinkin's alleged activities took place while he was on-duty with the HRC.

The investigation originally stemmed from communications between Brinkin and a person in Australia, Gascón said. He said Australian authorities have arrested someone on child pornography charges.

He said investigators aren't sure the activities depicted took place in Australia, but authorities in that country are working to reach out to victims.

Gascón said his staff waited until this week to formally charge Brinkin because "We wanted to make sure whatever we did here was not going to compromise the integrity of the investigation in Australia."

In a news release issued Wednesday, he said, "A guilty plea or conviction on any count would require [Brinkin] to register as a sex offender for life." [End update].

San Francisco police initially arrested Brinkin on child pornography-related charges in June. He quickly posted bail and was released from custody on those charges. His arrest last week followed further investigation by police at the request of the district attorney's office.

Brinkin, an out gay man, was a compliance officer for the San Francisco Human Rights Commission for more than two decades before he retired in 2010.

Court records reviewed in June showed that police seized two locked red plastic toolboxes containing videos, two laptops and a desktop computer, three thumb drives, and other items from Brinkin's Waller Street home.

According to the affidavit accompanying the search warrant, in May, San Francisco police viewed information that had been sent to them by a Los Angeles Police Department detective. That detective had received tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an America Online representative had reported that a user going by Zack3737 with the email address had been communicating with another email user. There were two emails with pictures attached that AOL representatives "believed to be child pornography," the documents say.

The San Francisco police officer reviewed information that showed the screen name Zack3737 was registered to a Larry Brinkin, with Brinkin's home address and his phone numbers. He paid for the account via a credit card bearing his name, the records say.

A January 2011 email exchange between Zack3737 and another user implied that they were sharing pictures, according to court records.

Some in the LGBT community said they find charges against Brinkin hard to believe.

"Mr. Brinkin has been an amazing advocate to the community, a great colleague and a good friend," Health Commissioner Cecilia Chung, a transgender woman who served on the Human Rights Commission for several years, said in a Facebook exchange. "The Larry Brinkin that we are reading in the media seems so out of character, and I hope the community can remind ourselves those are still allegations and they certainly don't take away all the wonderful work that he had done on our behalf. I believe there has to be a logical explanation to all this madness."

Among highlights of his HRC career, Brinkin was a manager for the city's Equal Benefits Ordinance, the first of its kind in the country. The ordinance requires city contractors to provide the same benefits to their employees with spouses and their employees with domestic partners.

Brinkin also managed the commission's multi-year investigation of Badlands, a popular Castro neighborhood bar that in 2004 faced allegations of racial discrimination. Owner Les Natali has steadfastly denied the discrimination charges and the case was eventually settled through mediation.

The next court date is November 9 for status and motions.


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