Martinez, CA- Sean Harrington, a former California Highway Patrol officer who admitted to stealing and forwarding explicit photos of female DUI suspects to himself and his colleagues, pleaded no contest on Tuesday in Contra Costa County Superior Court to two felony charges of stealing and copying computer data.
Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Terri Mockler sentenced Harrington to a 6-month suspended prison sentence, three years of probation and ordered him to attend violence prevention classes. Harrington would have faced over three and a half years in jail if convicted of all counts in a trial. According to Harrington’s attorney, Michael Rains, the judge “wanted him to benefit from education that simply putting him in jail or making him wear an electronic bracelet never would have given him.”
Harrington was charged with stealing nude and semi-nude photos of women from their phones on two separate occasions. He resigned from the California Highway Patrol just before the charges were filed last October. One 23-year-old woman, who had been arrested on suspicion of DUI last August, discovered that several explicit photos she’d taken of herself had been forwarded from her phone sometime during booking to a number tracing back to Harrington.
Investigation into the allegations revealed that Harrington had also stolen and forwarded photos earlier in the month from a 19-year-old woman suspected of DUI while she was in the hospital receiving X-rays following a car accident.
“Taken from the phone of my 10-15x while she’s in X-rays. Enjoy buddy!!!” Harrington had sent in a text message, along with the 19-year-old’s photos, to fellow officers Robert Hazelwood and Dion Simmons.
Harrington admitted to investigators in a search warrant affidavit that stealing and forwarding photos from the phones of suspects was a “game” that he had been playing with other officers and that he had done the same thing to other female suspects “a half dozen times in the last several years.” He originally pleaded not guilty to the charges in November.
“You had a person who was in a position of public trust. We as the public gave him a certain amount of power,” Prosecutor Barry Grove said. “He violated that public trust, he abused his power, and now no longer forevermore is allowed to be a police officer. He will be a convicted felon for the rest of his life.”
Grove also said that Harrington, because of his position as an officer, was given a harsher punishment than a defendant not involved in law enforcement would have received.
Attorney Rick Madsen, who represents one of the victims in the case, said that his client is considering filing a lawsuit against Harrington and the CHP. “There’s no sentence that can ultimately undue(sic) the damage done to Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 2,” he said. “Both victims will live with the uncertainty of public disclosure and ridicule and embarrassment.”
“I realized the severity of the charges throughout this entire process and from the very beginning I accepted responsibility for my part and my actions,” Harrington said outside of the courthouse. “I fully cooperated with investigators and did everything asked of me to make things right. This has cost me my career in the CHP, a career that I loved and was good at, and a career that made my family and friends proud of me.”
“I apologize to my family, my wife, my friends. I apologize to officers everywhere, especially to the two women involved. I’m trying to put this behind me and move forward from this. I hope now everyone else can too,” Harrington said.
Harrington is due in court in March to show the judge that he attended violence prevention classes.