Calif. Highway Patrol officer sued for copying woman’s cell phone photos after arresting her
A California Highway Patrol officer copied photos of a scantily clad woman from her phone after arresting her for driving under the influence last year near San Francisco, the woman alleges in a lawsuit brought against the officer and the agency.
Natalie Sramek filed the suit in federal court in the Northern District of California on Thursday, accusing the officer and the highway patrol of conducting a warrant-less search of her phone and of denying her right to due process.
California Highway Patrol Officer Sean Harrington pulled over Sramek on suspicion of driving under the influence on Aug. 29, 2014, on a highway in San Ramon, about 20 miles (40 km) east of San Francisco, according to the lawsuit.
He took her purse and cell phone and convinced her to give him the pass code for her phone, the lawsuit said.
Harrington later scrolled through the pictures on it and copied six photos of Sramek in “various states of undress” by sending them to his own phone, the lawsuit said.
He then shared the photos with at least one other highway patrol officer, according to the lawsuit.
A representative for the highway patrol did not return calls seeking comment.
According to the Contra Costa Times newspaper, Harrington resigned last year after being charged with two counts of felony computer theft for stealing photos from women’s cell phones. He pleaded no contest to the charges in January and was sentenced to probation, the newspaper reported.
Sramek’s lawsuit also named as a defendant the CHP officer who received text messages from Harrington including the scantily clad images. The Contra Costa Times said prosecutors declined last year to charge that officer over the incident.
A cover sheet for the lawsuit said the plaintiff was seeking $7.5 million, but the lawsuit also said the amount sought would be determined from proof at trial.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Leslie Adler)