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CHP Officer Accused In Nude Pic Theft From Female Suspect's Phone Appears In Martinez Court

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- A former Dublin-area California Highway Patrol officer charged with computer theft for allegedly stealing explicit photos from female suspects' cellphones appeared in a Martinez courtroom Monday but did not enter a plea.

Sean Harrington, 35, who resigned from the CHP last week amid allegations that he forwarded nude and semi-nude images from at least two female DUI suspects' phones in August to himself and to colleagues appeared in court today on two charges of unauthorized access to a computer and copying computer data.

Harrington, a Martinez resident, surrendered on the charges at county jail in Martinez this morning and was later released on $10,000 bail.  He could face up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted of the charges, according to prosecutors.

The former officer appeared in court this afternoon with his wife and his attorney, Michael Rains.

The arraignment was postponed until Nov. 14 after Rains requested time to review the evidence in the case.

However, the attorney said outside of the courtroom this afternoon that Harrington has already admitted to Contra Costa County investigators to stealing cellphone images from multiple female suspects and forwarding the photos to himself and to two other CHP officers within the Dublin area office.

Prosecutors said neither of the other two officers would be charged at this time and Rains said it appeared those officers had "minimal involvement" in the exchange of explicit photos.

Rains said his client is "very sad about what his own conduct has cost him and his family but he acknowledges his mistakes and he's going to try to move on with his life."

That conduct included the theft of more than half a dozen nude or semi-nude photos from the cellphones of two different young women in police custody in August, according to search warrant records.

The first theft happened on Aug. 6 after Harrington arrested a 19-year-old woman for DUI in Livermore, then searched her phone while she was being treated in a hospital and sent private images from her phone to his, court records show.

About two weeks later, the then-officer arrested a 23-year-old woman in San Ramon on suspicion of DUI. While she was in county jail, Harrington accessed the woman's cellphone and sent half a dozen explicit images from her phone to his own, according to search warrant records.

The former officer also admitted to investigators that he forwarded some of the stolen images to two fellow CHP officers in an exchange that he referred to as a "game" and that he stole images from female suspects' phones four to six times over a three-year period.

"He knows it was inappropriate and it's just too bad he wasn't thinking about that at the time it occurred," Rains said of his client's conduct.

In a prepared statement released to the media today, Rains wrote, "Officer Harrington offers his deepest apologies to the women whose cellular telephones were accessed or reviewed. Officer Harrington also offers an apology to the other outstanding members of the California Highway Patrol and to officers of other law enforcement agencies who work tirelessly every day to preserve and strengthen the public image of their respective police agencies."

Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson said this is the first time in the county's history that his office had charged a law enforcement officer with a crime of this kind.

Both the Contra Costa and Alameda County Public Defender's offices have requested a review of all cases in which Harrington and the other two officers implicated in the nude photo-sharing scandal were involved to assess whether they should be revisited or dismissed.

© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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