CHP Officer Accused in Nude Photo Sharing Scandal Pleads Not Guilty

A California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing more than half a dozen explicit photos from female DUI suspects' cellphones earlier this year pleaded not guilty to the charges in a Martinez courtroom Friday.

Martinez resident and Dublin area CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, entered the not guilty pleas to two counts of unauthorized access to a computer and copying computer data in Contra Costa County Superior Court Friday afternoon.

He surrendered on the charges at county jail in Martinez on Nov. 3 and was released the same day on $10,000 bail. A judge today set his next court appearance for Dec. 2.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Harrington's attorney Michael Rains said his client expects to reach a plea agreement with the district attorney's office.

He added that today's "not guilty" plea doesn't mean Harrington is denying the charges against him, and noted that he has admitted to forwarding photos to two fellow CHP officers from the Dublin area office.

"He's not denied it, he did not deny it when he was initially interviewed about it...and the evidence indicates that indeed those photographs were on his phone," Rains said.

The former CHP officer further admitted to district attorney's investigators that he stole photos from female suspects' phones on four to six occasions over the past few years, Rains said.

However, charges have only been filed in connection with thefts from two women.

Rains said investigators have found forensic evidence that another CHP officer received photos of one of the women.

Neither of the two officers Harrington implicated, Robert Hazelwood and Dion Simmons, has been charged in the case, with prosecutors citing insufficient evidence that either man committed conspiracy, aiding and abetting or any other crime.

The CHP has said it is investigating the allegations and that one of the officers implicated was removed from patrol duties while a second officer remains on duty because he is only considered a witness in the case.

Hazelwood issued a statement about the case through his attorney, Dirk Manoukian.

"While Officer Hazelwood certainly agrees with the legal analysis and conclusion by the District Attorney's Office that he did not violate any laws, he is nevertheless remorseful for the insensitive and unprofessional remarks contained in his texts," Manoukian said in an email.

"He sincerely apologizes to the women directly involved in this matter...he is also deeply sorry for any negative effect his comments have had on his fellow law enforcement officers who bravely and honorably discharge their duties every day across our state and nation," the attorneys said.

Simmons could not be reached for comment on the case.

The case was blown open in October after one of the former suspects, a 23-year-old San Ramon woman, reported that half a dozen nude and semi-nude selfies had been secretly sent from her phone to an unknown number traced to Harrington. According to a search warrant affidavit, the officer forwarded the messages from his phone while the woman was in county jail after a DUI arrest in San Ramon in the early hours of Aug. 29.

Further investigation revealed that Harrington previously stole private photos from the phone of a 19-year-old DUI suspect arrested in Livermore on Aug. 6 while she was in the hospital and forwarded them to his own.

DUI charges have since been dropped against both women involved in the case, and prosecutors and public defenders in Alameda and Contra Costa counties say they are reviewing cases in which the three implicated officers were involved.

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