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Sunday, May 26, 2024 | Back issues
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CHP Officer Charged With Swiping Arrestees’ Nudes

MARTINEZ, Calif. (CN) - Prosecutors in Contra Costa County have filed felony criminal charges against a now-former California Highway Patrol officer who they say copied explicit photos from the cellphones female arrestees, and distributed them to other CHP officers.

Sean Harrington resigned from the CHP after one woman, identified as Jane Doe #1, discovered that the officer sent photos of her topless and in her underwear to his own phone during a DUI stop this past summer.

The woman says she handed over her iPhone and password at Harrington's request during the stop. Harrington's alleged actions come just months after a unanimous Supreme Court decision in Riley v. California, which held that law enforcement cannot search or seize an arrestee's cellphone without a warrant.

Investigators are looking into similar accusations by another woman, Jane Doe #2, who Harrington also pulled over this past summer.

Prosecutors obtained a search warrant for Harrington's home, as well as a second one for CHP officer Robert Hazelwood's cellphone. Investigators believe Harrington sent at least one photo to Hazelwood, and the pair exchanged several lewd text messages about Doe #1 and her body.

Harrington also allegedly sent messages to a third CHP officer, Dion Simmons, with a suggestion that he "just rerun a favor down the road, buddy," investigators said.

Neither Hazelwood nor Simmons has been charged.

Prior to the search warrant being obtained, Harrington told investigators he had seized the cellphones of female arrestees at least a half dozen times in the last several years. And he implicated that other CHP officers from across the Golden State are also seizing and scanning cellphones for racy photos - something Harrington described as "a game," according to investigators.

On Friday, prosecutors charged Harrington with two counts of theft and copying of computer data, a felony. He did not enter a plea during his first court appearance Monday.

The DUI charges against Doe #1 have been dropped, as have several other cases involving Harrington and female arrestees according to the district attorneys in both Contra Costa County and neighboring Alameda County.

Harrington's attorney, Michael Rains, said that his client resigned voluntarily from the CHP and is sorry for his behavior.

"Harrington offers his deepest apologies to the women whose cellular telephones were accessed or reviewed," Rains said in a statement. "Harrington also offers an apology to the other outstanding members of the California Highway Patrol and to officers of other law enforcement agencies who work tirelessly every day to preserve and strengthen the public image of their respective police agencies. Harrington is embarrassed to have tarnished the reputation of the CHP and law enforcement generally."

It has been a rough year for the CHP's reputation. In September, the agency paid $1.5 million to settle 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock's claims that a patrolman repeatedly punched her on the side of the busy Santa Monica Freeway in July.

A passerby captured that incident on video, leading to the resignation of officer Daniel Andrew.

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