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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Woman Sues CHP Over Stolen Racy Photos

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A woman whose were stolen from her cellphone by disgraced former California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington over a year ago has sued the CHP, Harrington and one other officer for violating her privacy.

On Aug. 29, 2014, 23-year-old Natalie Sramek was pulled over by Harrington near San Ramon, California, on suspicion of driving under the influence. She was arrested and taken to jail in nearby Martinez, where Harrington - after confiscating her belongings - asked Sramek for the password for her cellphone so he could help her contact one of her friends.

Harrington then rifled through her photo library, choosing and sending at least six explicit pictures of Sramek to his phone, according to Sramek's federal complaint. He admitted to stealing five photos in an interview with investigators in October 2014.

The officer also sent the photos to officer Robert Hazelwood, and in an interview with prosecutors, he described his conduct as a game he learned while started working in the CHP's Los Angeles office where he and other officers would search the phones of female arrestees for nude photos and text them to each other.

Felony criminal charges were filed against Harrington, but neither Hazelwood nor any of the other officers who received the photos were charged.

Harrington, 35, pleaded no contest in January 2015 and was sentenced to probation. While the CHP initially said it was looking to fire Harrington, he resigned when Sramek came forward as one of his victims in 2014.

A CHP spokeswoman said Friday that she could not comment on ongoing litigation.

Aside from her claim that Harrington's search and seizure of her phone was illegal and that she never gave him permission to look through her photos, Sramek says her phone was also never returned and she has no idea whether copies of those photos are still floating around.

"Plaintiff has no way of knowing where the dissemination of her personal and private photos ends or whom else have may seen them or now possesses them," Sramek's complaint says, adding that the officers' conduct "shocks the conscience and offends the community's sense of decency."

Her attorney Rick Madsen did not respond to a request for comment.

Sramek asks for punitive damages and compensation for loss of future earnings, as well money for mental counseling.

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