A former Santa Barbara police officer accused of exposing himself to two teenage girls — and engaging in unlawful electronic peeping — at Refugio State Beach in 2009 defended his actions this week by testifying that the incidents were a misunderstanding.
Brian Kenneth Sawicki, 36, faces charges of annoying or molesting a child, lewd conduct in public, unlawful electronic peeping, destroying evidence and resisting arrest.
Sawicki took the witness stand Thursday and Friday in Santa Barbara County Superior Court in Santa Maria.
The case centers on the events of Aug. 10, 2009, when two 13-year-old girls told authorities they thought a man was following them along a trail on a secluded area of Refugio State Beach. They testified that they later saw him naked and masturbating on the beach as they approached.
The girls alerted an on-duty state park ranger, who tried to approach Sawicki before he allegedly ran away. He was later caught and arrested.
On Friday, Sawicki, who resigned shortly after his arrest, told the jury that he was naked on what he thought was a secluded part of the beach while he was making an erotic video for his girlfriend at the time.
His attorney, Michael Scott, asked Sawicki questions to reiterate that he saw no other people on the Refugio trails he often uses, and was not masturbating, but was applying tanning oil, when he was surprised by the girls.
Sawicki described his personal life in 2007 and 2008 as that of a bachelor who had many people over to his Santa Barbara home for parties or as guests in a spare room.
The former officer went on to say that his video footage of unsuspecting Refugio park goers changing in a bath and dressing room was taken by mistake. He had set the camera up to record his girlfriend performing oral sex on him, but that never took place and he thought the camera was off.
Sawicki said many people had access to his home, where a police search found 710 images of young girls on Sawicki’s confiscated laptop. He testified that the images were not his.
Although Sawicki is not being charged with possession of child pornography, Judge Kay Kuns has ruled that the evidence found on his computer can be used to prove intent in his charge of child annoying.
On cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard asked Sawicki to again go over the moments that led up to the teenage girls discovering him naked on the beach.
After parking his truck under an overpass, riding and then ditching his bike, Sawicki said, he climbed down the bluffs to the beach, walked three-quarters of a mile, and then set up his video camera.
He said he then rubbed tanning oil on his upper body and genitals to appear ”shiny,” and then did about 30 pushups to pump up his muscles.
“You’ve repeatedly mentioned in the case that you were stroking your genitals to counter (water) shrinkage,” Gerard said. “Is that correct?”
Sawicki replied that he had said that just once on Thursday.
The prosecutor tried to poke holes in Sawicki’s story, asserting that the beach was not, and rarely is, as secluded as Sawicki led jurors to believe.
“Both girls said that when they were at the break wall, there were a number of people around,” said Gerard, noting ranger testimony that people frequent the area one mile up the beach. “You’re testifying that the area is absolutely remote?”
Sawicki said he visits the beach two or three times a month during the summer, and typically during high tide to avoid other beach goers.
“Based on my experience, yes. I believed that no one would be there,” Sawicki said, eventually conceding, “Anything’s possible.”
Gerard also focused on the fact that Sawicki ran when a park ranger appeared to be approaching him the day of the incident.
Sawicki said that evidence, combined with the girls seeing him that day, mark among the “most regrettable” decisions of his life.
The case finishes up Tuesday with closing arguments, and will then go to the jury for deliberations.