Sean Harrington is a former California Highway Patrol officer who was just convicted of secretly stealing nude photos from the phones of women accused of DUI and sharing them with colleagues, but the case just took an even more shocking twist.
The 35-year-old Harrington was in court Tuesday to plead no contest to two felony charges of unauthorized access to a computer and copying computer data for sending the racy pictures to himself and his colleagues. But his plea bargain means that Sean Harrington will spend no time in jail for his crime, but instead be sentenced to three years of probation.
Prosecutor Barry Grove said Harrington must also speak at community violence solutions class, where he must admit to his crime.
“You had a person who was in a position of public trust. We as the public gave him a certain amount of power,” Grove said. “He violated that public trust, he abused his power, and now no longer forevermore is allowed to be a police officer. He will be a convicted felon for the rest of his life.”
Harrington’s lawyer, the high-profile Michael Rains, argued that Harrington was unfairly targeted for being a police officer.
“I think if this would have been a case where it was not a police officer but some other citizen who didn’t have a criminal record, it would have been a misdemeanor case,” Rains said.
But many believe the sentence didn’t go nearly far enough. The plea bargain led to outrage online, with many believing that Sean Harrington got preferential treatment for being a police officer.
Attny: Client recv’d “a harsher sentence than anyone who wasn’t a law enforcement officer would have” < Beg to differ http://t.co/B773AU7emn
— Kenn White (@kennwhite) January 28, 2015
Harrington’s victims also disagree with his lawyer’s assessment. Rick Madsen, an attorney for the 23-year-old woman who first reported Harrington, said last year that the case was “very damaging” to the victim.
“The callousness and depravity with which these officers communicated about my client is dehumanizing, horribly offensive and degrading to all women,” Madsen said. “It’s going to lead to another level of mistrust and skepticism to the motive of law enforcement in general.”
Sean Harrington seems to agree with the sentence. After initially pleading not guilty last year to stealing and sharing the nude photos from DUI suspects, the former California Highway Patrol officer told NBC Bay Area last year that the charged didn’t “warrant custodial time.”