MARTINEZ -- The California Highway Patrol officer accused of stealing nude photos of a DUI suspect from her phone while she was in custody has told investigators such image-stealing has been going on for years in the state law enforcement agency, stretching from its Los Angeles office to his own Dublin station, according to court documents obtained by this newspaper Friday.
CHP Officer Sean Harrington, 35, of Martinez confessed to stealing explicit photos from a second Contra Costa County DUI suspect without her permission in August and forwarding images to at least two other CHP officers. The five-year CHP veteran called it a "game" among officers, according to an Oct. 14 search warrant affidavit. Harrington told investigators he had done the same thing to female arrestees a "half dozen times in the last several years," according to the court records, which included graphic text messages between Harrington and his Dublin CHP colleague Officer Robert Hazelwood.
"There is probable cause to believe that California Highway Patrol Officers Sean Harrington and Robert Hazelwood, and others, both sworn officers and non-law-enforcement persons, engaged in a scheme to unlawfully access the cell phones of female arrestees, by intentionally gaining access to their cell phones and without their knowledge stealing and retaining nude or partially clothed photographs of them," Senior Contra Costa District Attorney inspector Darryl Holcombe wrote. Holcombe wrote that he found probable cause that both officers committed felony computer theft.
The new court documents show Harrington's alleged August nude photo lifting may not be an isolated scheme, and potentially involves more CHP officers around the state. One DUI case has already been dismissed as fallout from the investigation, and a prosecutor has said that any possible charges against officers could throw any cases in which they are witnesses into question.
No charges have yet been filed in the probe; deputy District Attorney Barry Grove said he expects a decision to be made next week.
"It's going to lead to another level of mistrust and skepticism to the motive of law enforcement in general," said Rick Madsen, an attorney representing the first Jane Doe. "This conduct is theft, and theft is defined as a moral turpitude crime that casts doubt one's character to tell the truth.
"The implications as far reaching and very damaging," Madsen added.
"If an officer knowingly received stolen property, in whatever form, then yeah, they are guilty of criminal offense."
As this newspaper first reported, Holcombe wrote in an earlier search warrant that Harrington allegedly forwarded explicit photos of a 23-year-old San Ramon woman from her phone to his own personal phone during a DUI arrest. The woman, referred to as Jane Doe in court documents, only discovered the theft five days after her release, tipped off because her iPad was synced to her iPhone, and she noticed the mysterious photo texts to an unknown phone number. Holcombe, using video surveillance and time-stamped text messages from the woman's phone, determined Harrington was in possession of the woman's phone at the moment the photos were forwarded. The woman -- who registered a blood alcohol level of .29 percent, more than three times the legal limit -- was being processed in the Martinez County Jail early Aug. 29 when the photos were stolen, according to court records.
Investigators first confronted Harrington on Oct. 10 and advised him a woman had made a complaint that her personal property was stolen. He voluntarily agreed to be interviewed. During questioning, Harrington admitted to stealing five photographs from Jane Doe (investigators have said there were six) and that he forwarded at least one to Hazelwood, according to court records.
"Harrington said he first learned of this scheme when he was working in the Los Angeles Office," Holcombe wrote. "Harrington said when he was assigned to the Dublin Office, he learned from other Officers that they would access the cell phones of female arrestees and look for nude photographs of them. Harrington said if photographs were located, the officers would then text the photographs to other sworn members of the office, and, to non-CHP individuals."
The new court documents describe a second incident in which a 19-year-old woman, referred to as Jane Doe #2, was involved in a DUI crash in Livermore on Aug. 7. On Harrington's phone, Holcombe located two photos of that DUI suspect in a bikini accompanied by a text message from the day of the arrest from Harrington to Hazelwood: "Taken from the phone of my 10-15x while she's in X-rays. Enjoy buddy!!!"
A "10-15x" is CHP code for in custody female and the woman may have been at a hospital to take X-rays after the crash.
Hazelwood replies: "No f---ing nudes?"
Shortly after sending to Hazelwood, Harrington sends another Dublin CHP Officer Dion Simmons the bikini photos with the same message indicating they were of an female arrestee. Simmons texts back "Nice" and "Hahahaaaa" and Harrington replies: "Just rerun a favor down the road buddy. :)"
Holcombe also detailed Aug. 29 text messages between Harrington and Hazelwood discussing the six photos he allegedly forwarded of the first Jane Doe in various states of undress, including one with a friend in the photo.
"Nudes are always better with the face," Hazelwood wrote to Harrington, less than an hour after the latter allegedly stole the woman's photos. Harrington replied: "Maybe she knows she has a jacked up horse face?!?!?"
Hazelwood asked to see her "dl," possibly referring to her driver's license photo and Harrington texted back: "When we get back to office. And we'll have MDF (county jail) mug shot too."
The pair continued the text back-and-forth, commenting on her "rocking" body and breasts.
On Oct. 10, after Harrington spoke to investigators, Hazelwood's supervisor ordered him to report to the DA's office. Shortly after entering the interview room, Hazelwood was advised it was a criminal investigation and he could leave at any time. He got up and exited the room.
But as he was leaving, Holcombe -- who said he worried Hazelwood would delete evidence from his phone after the meeting -- noticed a bulge in the CHP officer's back pocket and asked if he could see his cell phone. Hazelwood asked if he had a search warrant, and Holcombe said he did not, but told the officer he will keep the phone while obtaining one. Hazelwood initially consented to the search, but refused to sign the consent form, the investigator wrote.
Four days later, investigators got the warrant and found the text messages between Hazelwood and Harrington and photos of Jane Doe 2 on Hazelwood's Samsung Galaxy S5, according to the records.
Holcombe wrote he is part of an "investigative team" assigned to probe Harrington, Hazelwood and "others."
The CHP did not immediately to a request for comment on this story. Reached by cell phone Simmons declined to comment and a message was left with Harrington and Hazelwood.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026 or and Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684 or