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No jail time for cop who stole and shared suspects’ nudes

Sean Harrington thought of his porn ring as a “game.”


Miles Klee

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 28, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 4:16 pm CDT

Weeks after the state secured its first conviction under a new revenge porn law, a California Highway Patrol officer pled no contest to felony charges over duplicating and sharing intimate photos found on the phones of women in his custody—and got three years’ probation.

Sean Harrington, who resigned from the force when the charges were filed last October, had illegally searched the phones of two “Jane Does” he’d pulled over on the job. In at least one instance, while making a DUI stop with his partner, he had to ask the suspect for her password. She later discovered that photos of herself and a female friend in “various stages of undress” had been sent from her device to a number she didn’t recognize: Harrington’s.

Harrington texted such images to fellow officers and referred to the criminal scheme as a “game,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported last year. Any charges against both his known victims have since been dropped. Along with probation and a 180-day suspended sentence, he’s been ordered to “speak at a community violence solutions class” about his actions.

Interestingly, Harrington wasn’t prosecuted under the revenge porn law, which refers to the the intention of causing “emotional distress,” but for “theft and copying of computer data.” In a statement after his court appearance Tuesday, he said, “I apologize to my family, my wife, my friends. I apologize to officers everywhere, [and] especially to the two women involved.”

A CHP spokesman, meanwhile, brushed aside concerns about unconstitutional, unlawful, and unethical conduct by claiming simple dissociation. “The CHP has no comments or positions regarding the disposition of Mr. Harrington’s case, as he is no longer a member of our Department,” Officer Daniel Hill told Ars Technica.   

H/T Ars Technica | Photo by CODE 4/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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*First Published: Jan 28, 2015, 5:25 pm CST