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The California Highway Patrol is being investigated for an alleged "game" in which officers shared nude photos of women stolen from suspects' cell phones.
In a search warrant affidavit, CHP Officers Sean Harrington and Robert Hazelwood are accused of snagging near-naked selfies from arrestees' phones and then trading them like baseball cards. The Contra Costa Times reports that Harrington confessed to stealing explicit photos from a DUI suspect's phone as part of a sophomoric "game" between other officers.
If true, what charges could these allegedly pervy CHP officers face?
Search Warrant Reveals Possible Charges
As of Tuesday, no charges had been filed against either Harrington or Hazelwood, but an investigation is ongoing. The October 14 search warrant, with an attached affidavit from a district attorney's office inspector, gives us a taste of things to come for these suspects.
Search warrants need to state that there is probable cause to believe that a specific offense has been committed and that evidence of that offense will be found in or on the persons or places to be searched. In this case, the inspector writes that stealing and sharing naked pics from female suspects' phones constituted felony computer theft, reports the Times.
California's criminal laws allow suspects who steal any data from a computer system (even a smartphone) to face up to three years in prison, and that includes scantily clad photos of arrestees. Both Harrington and Hazelwood may be facing computer fraud charges for their roles in the "game" of stealing photos from women they arrested, but we won't know for sure until the investigation has concluded.
Internal Investigations Launched
Responding to the allegations of officer misconduct, CHP Chief Avery Brown condemned the officers involved in the alleged "game" and announced that two officers "have been removed from patrol duties" pending an internal investigation, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Meantime, according to the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa District Attorney's Office is set to decide this week whether to file criminal charges in the case.
The Chronicle reports that charges were not pursued against one of the victims of this "game," who had been arrested on suspicion of DUI. Often prosecutors will decline to charge or drop charges in a case where officer misconduct has irrevocably tainted the investigation.