A Santa Barbara police officer arrested for exposing himself in front of two 13-year-old girls near Refugio State Beach in 2009 was just taking a photo to share with his girlfriend, his lawyer told a Santa Maria jury during opening statements last Thursday. Brian Sawicki displayed bad judgment, his attorney Michael Scott said, but his conduct was not criminal. “He’s embarrassed that he’d been seen naked at the beach, especially as a police officer,” Scott said.
Authorities allege that Sawicki — who at the time was a seven-year veteran of the SBPD — was masturbating in front of the two teens. A recording recovered from Sawicki’s backpack shows both girls, said Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard, as well as a naked Sawicki.
Authorities recovered a number of recording devices from Sawicki, Gerard told the jury, including binoculars that could record images and an “epic stealth” camera. One device featured images of young girls in bikinis on the beach, she said. Another included a movie file that had been deleted. The camera with the deleted movie was pointed at a toilet, Gerard said, showing people changing their clothes and using the toilet. Investigation by officers indicated the device had been “covertly secreted under a sink.”
Sawicki is finally getting his day in court, more than three years after his arrest. Sawicki, who was working as a detective for the SBPD at the time, resigned voluntarily less a month after his arrest. He has been charged with annoying or molesting a child, lewd conduct in public, unlawful electronic peeping, resisting arrest, and destroying evidence, all misdemeanors. “I’m confident after you have reviewed all the evidence, you will have no problem finding the defendant guilty as charged,” Gerard said.
But Sawicki, in comments to the Santa Barbara News-Press, said the charges were exaggerated and the District Attorney was overreaching. “That’s unfortunate,” he told the paper. “I did not intentionally expose myself to two teenage girls, and I do not have a sexual interest in children. That’s ridiculous. The DA’s interpretation of the facts of the case are imaginative and speculative. My story, the truth, will be corroborated by credible witnesses and circumstances. I moved on professionally a long time ago. I, my family, my girlfriend, and my law enforcement friends who have stood by me deserve finality so that we can all put this behind us. That will come this week.”
Sawicki’s attorney told the jury his client was a 33-year-old bachelor with a very active social life, who dated many “age appropriate” women. He would often make plans to go to secluded parts of the beach to have romantic encounters or sunbathe in the nude, Scott said. At some point, his girlfriend had wanted to re-create a photo of Sawicki coming out of the water in a bathing suit. “That would be an even hotter picture if you were naked,” the girlfriend apparently intimated to Sawicki. The two of them were set to go to the beach together, but at the last moment, Sawicki’s girlfriend had to work, Scott told the jury. But he decided to go and set up the camera to take the photos.
He thought he was alone when he got naked and wasn’t there to look at the two girls, Scott said. “At no point did he get any closer than about 50 yards,” Scott said, adding that Sawicki didn’t speak to them.
Throughout the course of their investigation, authorities found 710 photos of child porn on a computer owned at one time by Sawicki, but only 23 of those had apparently been viewed, Scott said. Scott said a lot of people used the computer and that his client’s whereabouts at the time those photos were downloaded and accessed are verifiable through a police dispatch system that will show that he was working. As well, Scott said, the photos and video on the devices in Sawicki’s backpack had never had the images downloaded off of them, and Sawicki didn’t know what was on them.
Scott told the jury Sawicki would testify during the trial, which is expected to last eight to ten days.
Following opening statements Thursday, the two teens took the stand, where they told of how a man was following them as they walked down the beach to a cave. They apparently referred to him as the “creepy” guy because he was the only one following them for a while. When they reached the end of their journey, they turned around to head back. That’s when they saw a man, who they believed to be Sawicki, rubbing himself in the groin area. One of the girls later told authorities she believed he was masturbating.
The two girls ran up the cliff to avoid walking by the man, and as they were speaking with a lifeguard and park ranger, the man they saw earlier was riding by on a bicycle. They told the ranger and lifeguard, and Sawicki, after a brief chase, was detained.
The trial continues this week in Santa Maria.