Ex-CHP Employee Loses Again on Leak of Decapitation Pictures

There's more bad news for Aaron Reich, the former California Highway Patrol (CHP) dispatch officer who, along with another CHP employee, leaked photographs of the 2006 Halloween decapitation of an 18-year-old Orange County driver of a Porsche 911 Carerra.

Judges have called the action of Reich and Thomas O'Donnell "vulgar," "morally deficient" and "utterly reprehensible," while noting that law-enforcement-agency employees in California are often immune to bad-conduct violations.

Yet, in the ongoing civil case filed by the parents of victim Nikki Catsouras, Reich tried to argue that his act of sending the gruesome photographs to friends and family was protected by the U.S. Constitution as free speech.

His reasoning?

He now says he emailed the pictures to non-CHP individuals as a lesson about drunk driving.

Catsouras had a blood-alcohol level of zero, according to an autopsy report.

This week, in a California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana, a three-justice panel dismissed Reich's argument as specious.

"There is no evidence at this point that the emails were sent to communicate on the topic of drunk driving," wrote Justice Eileen Moore on behalf of her colleagues, William Rylaarsdam and Richard Aronson.

It may not have helped Reich's cause that he destroyed evidence in the case--the emails with the photographs--in an attempt to deny culpability, a point noted by the justices.

The panel ordered Reich to pay the appellate-court costs for Catsouras' family.

Sadly for the family, the disturbing photographs remain on the Internet.

Go HERE to read my previous coverage of the case.

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly

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