After Illegally Obtaining Female Suspects’ Explicit Phone Photos, CHP Officer Pleads ‘Not Guilty’

Last month, California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington was arrested after evidence surfaced that he had forwarded a DUI suspect’s nude photos to his own cell phone. On Friday, Nov. 14, however, Harrington’s attorney said that his client victimized other women as well.

According to attorney Michael Rains, Harrington secretly forwarded explicit photos to himself after arresting at least two female suspects. He also took pictures with his own phone of other female arrestees’ phone photos.

The scandal broke last month after a 23-year-old DUI suspect discovered through her iCloud app that some of her racy iPhone photos had been forwarded to an area code 707 phone number. After some research, she discovered that the number belonged to Harrington, her arresting officer.

Now Rains speculates that there could be other women who are unaware that they have been victimized. Harrington “indicated there were a couple of instances where he took his own phone and took a photo of the pictures,” said Rains, who also commented that the women’s identities were unknown at this time.

“He made a number of arrests,” Rain said. The Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office reported that Harrington arrested 13 female suspects this year.

Harrington has been charged with two counts of felony computer theft. He pleaded not guilty on Friday and was released on $10,000 bail.

If convicted, he could face three years and eight months in prison.

In addition to keeping the photos for himself, Harrington also forwarded them to Officer Robert Hazelwood, who was not arrested. Hazelwood had his phone confiscated by the District Attorney’s office and verbally consented to having his phone searched; however, he then disagreed to signing a consent form.

Inspector Darryl Holcombe, with the DA’s office, then obtained a warrant to search Hazelwood’s phone.

The issue of cell phone searches has been a hot topic in the news since the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that searching a cell phone is not the same as searching a suspect’s wallet. The latter is permitted under the Fourth Amendment, whereas the former requires a warrant from officers.

Law enforcement officers will normally confiscate a suspect’s phone upon arrest, so that individual cannot destroy evidence. The officer may then catalog the phone with the arrestee’s other personal effects, or the officer might hold onto it if awaiting a search warrant.

Chris Conley, a San Francisco policy attorney with the ACLU, said that there are no situations where an officer would be allowed to share illegally obtained information from a cellphone.

Even with a warrant, Conley said, “There’s no circumstance or legal justification for sharing with other officers because they found racy pictures.”

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