Ex-CHP officer close to plea in cellphone photo scandal

If convicted, ex-CHP officer Sean Harrington could face several years in prison.

A California Highway Patrol officer charged with two felony counts for allegedly sending nude pictures of two women in his custody to his personal cellphone is close to accepting a plea agreement that would resolve his case, his attorney said Monday.

Michael Rains, the defense attorney for CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, told Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge Terri Mockler at a brief hearing in Martinez this morning that he has had discussions with prosecutors in the case and "there will be a change of plea," but an agreement hasn't been finalized yet.

Mockler set another hearing for Jan. 27. Rains said he plans to talk to District Attorney Mark Peterson in the interim and will be ready to have Harrington, who remains free on bail, enter a plea at that time.

Outside court, Rains said, "I've had a number of discussions with Judge Mockler and Deputy District Attorney Barry Grove and we're trying to reach a resolution that will involve a plea."

However, Rains said he doesn't know at this time what a plea agreement would involve for Harrington, who is charged with two counts of unauthorized access to a computer and copying computer data.

The defense attorney said he's moving toward a plea deal because, "I don't think we need to play this out with an evidentiary hearing."

Prosecutors said the first incident involving Harrington occurred in Livermore on Aug. 6, when a 19-year-old woman was arrested for driving under the influence in connection with an accident in which she was injured.

While the woman was being treated at a hospital, Harrington allegedly searched her phone and sent private photos from her cellphone to his.

The second incident happened on Aug. 29, when Harrington arrested a woman in San Ramon for driving under the influence and booked her into the Martinez Detention Facility. When she was released from custody, she realized several of her personal photos had been sent to Harrington's cellphone,
prosecutors said.

The woman's attorney notified prosecutors, who obtained search warrants for Harrington's phone and computer. Prosecutors said forensic evidence confirms Harrington transmitted the photos to his cellphone as well as to two members of the CHP's Dublin office.

So far, only Harrington has been charged in the case, but prosecutors have said they would charge others if more information comes to light.

Prosecutors and public defenders are both reviewing cases involving Harrington and the officers to whom he sent pictures.

Harrington told investigators in the case that the practice of sharing female arrestees' nude photos was not uncommon in the Dublin office of the CHP, according to search warrant records. The search warrant said Harrington first learned of the practice while working at the CHP office in Los Angeles.

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