No jail for former CHP officer who shared explicit photos of suspects

A former California Highway Patrol officer was sentenced to probation Tuesday for sharing racy photographs he took from the cellphones of women who were in custody.

Sean D. Harrington, 35, pleaded no contest to two felony counts of unauthorized access to a computer and copying of data.

Harrington was sentenced to three years of probation and six months of jail time, but Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Terri Mockler suspended his incarceration term. Harrington must also complete 27 hours of violence prevention training.

Harrington resigned from the CHP in November.


According to the criminal complaint filed against him by the Contra Costa County district attorney’s office, on Aug. 6 Harrington went through the phone of a 19-year-old woman who was in custody on suspicion of DUI.

As he browsed photos on her phone -- then sent some to his own phone -- she was being treated at a hospital.

On Aug. 29, Harrington searched another woman’s phone while she was in jail for a DUI arrest and sent revealing photos to his phone. After reviewing her iPad, which was linked to her iPhone, she found out about the breach.

Harrington forwarded the photos to two colleagues, prosecutors said.


Harrington’s sharing of explicit photos rocked the state agency, especially after he told prosecutors that such unauthorized access of suspects’ phones was widespread.

In response, Chief Avery Browne, head of CHP’s Golden Gate Division, held a news conference in which he said Harrington’s claims of widespread explicit photo sharing were unfounded. 

“Allegations that have been brought forward are disappointing,” Browne said. “They are disgusting.”

The alleged practice was confined to some staff at the CHP’s Dublin office, Browne said.


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