California Highway Patrol officer Sean Harrington just couldn’t help himself when he got his sticky-fingers on an attractive female’s smartphone. During a DUI stop in the summer, Harrington wrote up a violation and then committed one of his own – allegedly forwarding himself six pics of a woman in a bikini and various stages of undress as he illegally went through her iPhone’s photobook.
Writes the HuffPost on Oct. 23: “Officer Sean Harrington, 35, is accused of sending six explicit photos of the 23-year-old woman to himself after he discovered them on her phone while she was being booked on DUI charges in August.”
Search warrant records show that Contra Costa’s deputy district attorney Barry Grove is recommending felony computer theft charges against Martinez, who illegally accessed the subject’s phone without a warrant. The five-year-veteran cop is still working; he’s been assigned to “desk duty” while the investigation is ongoing. “We’ve been investigating this for quite some time, the investigation is coming to a conclusion and we expect to make a charging decision this week,” Grove said.
On August 29, Harrington and his partner pulled over the unnamed 23-year-old San Ramon woman and took her to Martinez County Jail after she failed sobriety tests and was found with a blood alcohol level of .29 – more than three times the legal limit. Investigators said the woman, while drunk, gave the officer her four-digit passcode so Martinez could retrieve information she needed. He then later used that code to thumb through her phone and surreptitiously forward himself the sexually explicit photos.
Explains the Contra Costa Times: “While a record of the forwarded photos was deleted from the woman’s Apple iPhone, her iPad, which was synced to her phone via the iCloud service, revealed that the explicit photos in her app were forwarded to an unknown phone number in the 707 area code while she was in police custody. The woman researched the number and learned it belonged to her arresting officer, according to the court records.”
On Oct. 16, investigators executed a search warrant at Harrington’s home, seized his own iPhone and Apple MacBook and found the photos that had been sent from the woman’s phone. Martinez said the woman asked him to fetch a contact number from her phone while she was behind bars; video confirms this, though he later used that passcode to illegally search her phone. In June the Supreme Court “unanimously ruled that police may not search the cell phones of criminal suspects upon arrest without a warrant – a sweeping endorsement for privacy rights,” reported CNN on June 25.
“We think it’s a horrendous breach of the public trust,” said Rick Madsen, the attorney representing the woman. “We believe Officer Harrington committed a clandestine and illegal intrusion into her privacy which is unspeakable considering his sworn duty to protect the public. My client remains understandably distraught as we await further information about who else may possess the photos and what further investigation may uncover.”
Sound off below: If prosecuted and found guilty, what should happen to the voyeuristic Officer Sean Harrington?