From: San Jose Mercury News
By Matthias Gafni 11/3/14
MARTINEZ — Hours after former CHP Officer Sean Harrington surrendered to authorities and minutes after his first appearance in a Martinez courtroom Monday, his attorney apologized to the women his client is accused of victimizing by secretly stealing racy photos from their cellphones and sharing them with colleagues.
Attorney Michael Rains explained that his client thought it was a “cute and funny” joke, but it was anything but, he said.
“What was he thinking? Probably the honest answer was, he wasn’t thinking,” Rains told a media gathering outside of the Martinez courtroom where moments earlier Harrington sat stoically with his wife. “He thought it was cute, he thought it was funny. He didn’t send it anywhere else, he didn’t put it on the Internet, Facebook, it went no further.”
Harrington, dressed in a gray striped suit, said nothing to reporters outside of court and softly answered “I do” to Judge Terri Mockler when asked if he understood the delay in his arraignment on two charges of computer theft. Earlier the 35-year-old father of two turned himself in and posted $10,000 bail. Harrington faces up to three years and eight months in prison if convicted of those charges.
“It’s difficult for a law enforcement officer to turn himself in, but it’s difficult for a law enforcement officer to surrender a career, and he’s already done that,” Rains said of Harrington, who resigned last week. “He’s been through a lot, and as you can imagine is very sad about what his own conduct has cost him and his family, but he acknowledges his mistakes.”
Harrington returns to court Nov. 14 for his arraignment, and a possible plea deal.
“He’s indicated to me he’d like to wrap this up as soon as possible for the sake of his family and for the sake of these proceedings,” Rains said. “So, if we can resolve this case on the 14th, we’re going to do that.”
Harrington allegedly forwarded explicit photos from at least two women’s phones to his own personal device while he arrested them on suspicion of DUI in August, according to search warrants. Harrington then shared the photos with at least two CHP officers, also based out of the Dublin office, exchanging salacious text messages about the women.
No other CHP officers have been arrested in this case, and the Contra Costa district attorney on Friday said the other two officers who received Harrington’s texts did not commit a crime.
“It’s an egregious invasion of privacy, but what’s worse is it undermines the public’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Contra Costa deputy district attorney Barry Grove said Monday.
Rains’ apology didn’t sit well with Rick Madsen, attorney for the woman who discovered her stolen photos and went to DA investigators.
“The expression of remorse and regret as articulated by his lawyer rings hollow. There’s still no explanation whatsoever of the disposition of (my client’s) personal and private photographs nor who may have seen them,” Madsen said “Her anxiety and distrust continue unabated.”
Madsen added that Harrington still has not identified the other four to six women from whom he admitted stealing photos and until then his remorse is “disingenuous.”
“It’s important to remember he didn’t come forward voluntarily to admit to these crimes, he got caught,” Madsen said.
In a statement to investigators, Harrington told them he learned of the scheme while at the Los Angeles CHP office and saw members of the Dublin station doing it when he transferred there. But on Monday, Rains clarified that when Harrington told investigators the “game” was widespread, including at his first assignment in Los Angeles, he was speaking only of “rumors” he heard.
CHP officials have maintained the incidents are isolated to the Dublin office, based on their internal investigation. Rains said Monday his client has not been interviewed by the CHP, but his Contra Costa district attorney investigation interview was handed over.
The attorney said the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, which launched its own investigation last week, has not spoken to Harrington either.
At least two DUI cases — one in Contra Costa County and one in Alameda County — involving two of the Dublin CHP officers named in court documents have been dropped by prosecutors. Defense attorneys have asked that active and past cases involving those CHP officers be reviewed.
Rains said his client told Contra Costa investigators during a three-hour interview he stole photos from women “four to six” times over a three-year period. The attorney estimated Harrington arrested about 25 women a year on suspicion of DUI.
“There were many, many, many women who were stopped and arrested by this officer” where he did not steal their photos, Rains said. To his victims, Rains said: “A heartfelt apology to them for the insensitivity of his conduct. The indignity of it all. He knows it was inappropriate. It’s just too bad he wasn’t thinking of it at the time it occurred.”