takes deal in teen sex case
by Seth Hemmelgarn
A gay San Francisco man who has been accused of having sex with minors he met through Craigslist has accepted a plea deal and is expected to be sentenced to prison in February.
Brandon Lee Hamm, 37, who had been a volunteer pastor at Peninsula Metropolitan Community Church in San Mateo, had faced 58 felony charges after police arrested him in June.
On Friday, December 21 in San Mateo County Superior Court, Hamm pleaded no contest to nine charges: three counts each of meeting with a child for the purpose of a lewd act and oral copulation with a child under 16; and one count each of possession of child pornography, sodomy on a child under 16, and sodomy on a child under 18. A no contest plea is similar to a guilty plea.
According to the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, in June, 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.
Hamm allegedly arranged to meet for sex, and officers from the South San Francisco Police Department arrested him 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.
Following his June arrest, with Hamm's consent, officers went through his email account and located a victim who's now 16, prosecutors said in a case summary. 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.
Another case 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 incidents.
According to the DA's office, Hamm responded to the victim's Craigslist ad, and prosecutors indicated that the two 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," prosecutors said in a summary.
Meeting places included a Burlingame park, a school, and the home of one boy's aunt, according to law enforcement officials.
At a hearing set for February 19, Hamm could be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in state prison. After a September preliminary hearing, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Leland Davis III had held Hamm to answer on most of the charges against him, so he had been heading to trial. He remains in custody on $500,000 bail. Among the charges that were dropped as part of the plea deal was distribution of lewd materials to a minor. Hamm will have lifetime sex offender registration status for the convictions.
Ryan McHugh, Hamm's attorney, declined to comment on why Hamm accepted the deal, but San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe estimated Hamm could have faced up to 35 to 40 years in prison if he'd been convicted on all charges.