Brinkin pleads guilty
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Gay rights pioneer Larry Brinkin is expected to serve six months in jail after pleading guilty this week to felony possession of child pornography.
Brinkin, 67, who was a longtime staffer at San Francisco's Human Rights Commission, quietly entered his plea Tuesday, January 21 before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy.
At his sentencing March 5, Brinkin is expected to be ordered to serve five years of probation, which would begin with six months in jail and be followed by six months of home detention with a monitoring bracelet. Brinkin must also register as a sex offender for life. Prosecutors had charged Brinkin with two counts of distributing child pornography and four counts of possession of child pornography. The remaining charges were dismissed Tuesday.
San Francisco police initially arrested Brinkin on child pornography-related charges in June 2012. He quickly posted bail and was released from custody on those charges. Following further investigation by police at the request of the district attorney's office, he surrendered to police in September 2012 and bailed out of custody shortly thereafter.
Assistant District Attorney Leslie Cogan has said that there were "numerous items of photographs as well as videos" involved in the case, and that Brinkin's activity had gone back to October 2011.
Brinkin, who was a compliance officer for the Human Rights Commission for more than two decades before he retired in 2010, declined to comment before his court appearance Tuesday. His husband, Wood Massi, accompanied him, as he has for numerous hearings since 2012.
After the hearing, Randy Knox, Brinkin's attorney, said that Brinkin is "genuinely remorseful" and has a "much greater understanding of the damage that child pornography inflicts."
"Larry is a wonderful, kind, sensitive human being who made a terrible mistake," Knox added.
According to the affidavit accompanying a search warrant in the case, in May 2012, 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 had come from an America Online representative.
Court records 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.
Among other items, attached to one email police found an image that showed "an approximately 2-3 year old child ... Underneath the child is an adult male, using his right hand to hold the child and his left hand to insert his erect penis into the anus of the child," the document says.
In the email, the user, who authorities indicated was Brinkin, wrote, "damn, what a sight seeing huge dick in tiny hole, tearing it open. That [n-word] must be in coon heaven stuffin it in the tiny white hole!"
Asked if he had any comment to the LGBT community on Brinkin's behalf, Knox, who declined to allow reporters to speak to Brinkin, said, "I'm not really qualified to speak on Larry's behalf to the LGBT community." However, he said Brinkin has spoken to "people who have been friends and supporters in the past to explain personally how this happened."
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.
Reached by phone Tuesday, HRC Executive Director Theresa Sparks said, "Overall, I have no comment, obviously, professionally, but personally I think it's just a very, very sad commentary, a very sad situation. I'm heartbroken it happened."
Sparks said she doesn't believe his plea will affect his pension, but "I'm not an expert on that. I have no idea."
Knox said that Brinkin should continue to receive his pension from the city, since "this is not a moral turpitude crime," and it's "not something that happened when he was working for the city."
As part of Brinkin's probation, officials would be able to monitor his computer use, and he'd be ordered to participate in outpatient sexual offender therapy, among other conditions.