Sean Harrington, a California Highway Patrol officer, is accused of having surreptitiously downloaded and forwarded nude photos from the phone of a woman he pulled over for a DUI stop.
According to court documents obtained by the Contra Costa Times, investigators have determined, using surveillance footage from the county jail the woman was taken to, that Harrington was in possession of the woman's phone when the photos—of the woman in a bikini and "in various states of undress"—were forwarded to his own.
Harrington, 35, and another officer pulled over the woman, who has not been identified, in the early morning hours of Aug. 29 for making an unsafe lane change. The woman failed a field sobriety test with a blood alcohol level of .29 percent, or more than three times the legal limit. At one point, Harrington allegedly asked for the woman's cell phone password and the woman complied, she told police investigating the case.
Investigators have determined that the photos were forwarded to Harrington's phone at 2:08 a.m. on Aug. 29, when he was in possession of the woman's phone: After being taken to a county jail in Martinez, Ca., the woman at one point asked for a number off her confiscated phone. Harrington, as corroborated by surveillance video in the jail, found the number in her phone, wrote it down on a piece of paper, and handed it to her.
The woman, 23, the Contra Costa Times reports, discovered that the photos had been sent to Harrington's phone because they were also synced to her iPad:
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 "photos" 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.
"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," Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove told the Contra Costa Times.
The woman's lawyer, however, has said Harrington might not be the only officer allegedly involved.
"We're confident that the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office is committed to determining the scope of this matter, but it's clear it's not isolated to one victim or one particular officer because we believe multiple search warrants have been served," Rick Madsen, the attorney representing the woman, told the Contra Costa Times. "As humiliating as this has been to my client, she came forward to prevent the same indignity from ever occurring again."
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Harrington has been put on desk duty until the investigation has concluded. The woman's DUI charge will not be prosecuted because of Harrington's alleged behavior.
As the Contra Costa Times points out, the Supreme Court ruled this June that police cannot search a person's phone without a search warrant.