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Ex-MCC Pastor Ordered to Stand Trial on Sex, Child Porn Charges

by Seth Hemmelgarn
Thursday Sep 20, 2012

A judge has ordered a gay San Francisco man who's been accused of having sex with minors he met through Craigslist, possession of child pornography, and other crimes to stand trial on most of the charges.

Brandon Lee Hamm, 37, who had been a volunteer pastor at Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church in San Mateo, appeared in San Mateo County Superior Court Friday, September 7 for a preliminary hearing before Judge Leland Davis III.

According to the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, Hamm advertised on Craigslist for "horny skater boys." A police detective responded to the ad posing as a 14-year-old boy and engaged in "graphic" email exchanges with Hamm, who sent a picture of his genitals, prosecutors said in a case summary.

Hamm allegedly arranged to meet for sex, and the South San Francisco Police Department arrested him in June after he showed up at a park, which had been designated as a meeting spot. Police found child pornography featuring boys 4 to 6 years old having sex with adults on his cell phone, according to the DA's office.

In this case, he faces felony charges related to possession of child pornography, arranging to meet with a minor for the purpose of engaging in lewd and lascivious acts, contacting or communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sexual act, and sending or distributing harmful matter with sexual intent to a minor.

Davis didn't hold Hamm to answer on the latter two counts, since the officer wasn't an actual minor, but he's still facing trial on attempting each of the two alleged crimes.

Hamm is also facing numerous other charges, all of which were covered by Friday's preliminary hearing.

Following his June arrest, with his consent, officers went through his email account and located a victim who's now 16, according to the DA's office. The boy was 14 in 2009 when he responded to Hamm's Craigslist ad and ultimately met him a number of times. They allegedly engaged in oral copulation and sodomy.

"Much of their conduct was documented in their email exchanges," according to the DA's office.

Hamm faces 42 felony counts in this case, including accusations related to going to meet a minor for engaging in lewd or lascivious behavior, and participating in sodomy with a minor, among other acts.

Hamm is also being held to answer on 10 felony counts in a third case, which also came to the police department's attention after the June arrest. Officers located a boy who was 15 in the fall of 2010 at the time of the alleged crimes.

The charges include sodomy with a minor and distributing lewd materials to a minor, among other crimes.

Prosecutors say that Hamm responded to the victim's Craigslist ad, and prosecutors indicated that they ended up meeting several times and had oral and anal sex.

The victim's emails "show great anguish and embarrassment over what he was doing but [Hamm] kept the relationship going right up to the time of his arrest in the other case," according to the DA's office.

According to law enforcement officials, meeting places included a Burlingame park, a school, and the home of one boy's aunt.

Outside the South San Francisco courtroom Friday, before Davis delivered his orders, Ryan McHugh, Hamm's attorney, declined to comment on the cases.

During the hearing, South San Francisco Police Detective Christy Wesselius said one of the victims had wanted to stop communicating with Hamm and had closed email accounts. She also said one of the victims eventually told Hamm that he wasn't gay and didn't want to continue the acts.

When at least one of the boys didn't show up for a meeting with Hamm, he expressed "disappointment or frustration," but wasn't threatening, Wesselius said.

She testified that one of the boys, who had been photographed while naked and handcuffed to a tree, had told her his doing so had been completely voluntary.

Hamm is out of custody on $200,000 bail bond on the first case, but he remains in San Mateo County's main jail for the other two. His bail for each of those is $200,000.

The cases were continued to September 25 for arraignment. Deputy District Attorney Sharon Cho is the prosecutor.

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