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Minister Faces 12 Charges as Child Molester

October 01, 1987|MARK A. STEIN | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted a Southern Baptist minister and child-care worker for allegedly molesting six boys and four girls at an Army preschool day-care center.

Gary W. Hambright, 33, of San Francisco was charged with 10 counts of conducting lewd or lascivious acts with children under 14 and with two counts of oral copulation. He has agreed to surrender to authorities on Friday, when he is scheduled to be arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Frederick J. Woelflen.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Geoffrey A. Hansen said that he has spoken with Hambright but that he would postpone detailed comment on the case until Friday, when he expects to be formally appointed as his lawyer.

"From all I can see in this case, we will have a lot to say on Friday because Gary is an innocent man," Hansen said.

The acts allegedly were committed between May of 1985 and November of 1986, while Hambright was employed as a "child-caregiver" at the Presidio Day Care Center, which serves the families of civilian and military personnel stationed at the 6th Army Headquarters here.

Hambright had been indicted on similar charges, although involving only one child, on Dec. 30, but the charges were dropped after a federal judge ruled that the alleged victims, between ages 3 and 5, were too young to be considered credible witnesses and that their parents had offered only hearsay evidence.

U.S. Atty. Joseph P. Russoniello said a new indictment was sought after it was decided that the children have since matured enough to offer more articulate witnesses.

"We can't be sure (the testimony will be allowed) until we go to trial," he said, but "we're hopeful . . . they will be able to express--either verbally or nonverbally--what transpired."

Russoniello said he did not know for sure how the two prosecutors assigned to the case would present the children's testimony. In addition to the normal courtroom appearance for direct questioning, he said, the options being considered include videotaped testimony, questioning outside the courtroom by a court-appointed special master, or a form of nonverbal testimony using anatomically correct dolls.

Other Possible Victims

Parents who used the day-care center, which now enrolls 178 children, said in August that at least 37 children had been identified as possibly having been victims. But Russoniello said that some of those children could not be confirmed as victims by the joint FBI-Army Criminal Investigations Division team.

In other cases, he said, parents of confirmed victims asked that their children not be named in the indictment to avoid having the children testify in public.

"We want to make sure the children suffer no greater victimization by the process than by the act," he said.

Hambright was indicted under a federal law that allows federal authorities to prosecute those suspected of breaking state laws within federal property, Russoniello said. The child-care center is on the Presidio, an Army base that commands a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

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