A former Santa Barbara police officer received a mixed verdict Wednesday on charges stemming from a 2009 incident during which he allegedly exposed himself to two teenage girls — and engaged in unlawful electronic peeping — at Refugio State Beach.
A jury returned the verdicts in a Santa Maria courtroom about a day after going into deliberations following more three weeks of testimony and closing arguments.
Brian Kenneth Sawicki, 36, was acquitted of three misdemeanor charges — annoying or molesting a child, lewd conduct in public, and unlawful electronic peeping.
He was convicted of misdemeanor counts of destroying evidence and resisting arrest.
The case centered 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 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.
After the verdict, Santa Maria Superior Court Judge Kay Kuns thanked jurors for their service during the lengthy trial and set sentencing for next Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in Department 3.
Deputy District Attorney Brooke Gerard and Sawicki’s attorney, Michael Scott, declined polling the jurors but both expressed a desire to speak with them about their decisions afterward outside the courtroom.
Scott also requested evidence be returned to Sawicki – the 17 $100 bills found in Sawicki’s truck – but Kuns delayed discussion of that action until sentencing.
Outside the courtroom standing beside Scott, Sawicki was visibly less tense than before the verdict had been read.
“It’s been a long road,” Scott said, smiling as Sawicki echoed his sentiment.
“A long road,” Sawicki said. “Obviously, a relief. Unfortunately, I’ve waited three and a half years for it.”
Even with some charges acquitted, Sawicki said, he still lost a job he loved when he resigned after the incident and law enforcement lost an officer they had invested 12 years in.
“Quite frankly, there were no winners in this case,” Sawicki said. “I’ll accept my punishment as the judge sees fit.“
Sawicki said he has a small business in Santa Barbara and, at this point, has no desire to go back into law enforcement.
“I believe the case should’ve been settled months ago,” Scott said, noting a waste of court resources.
Scott will recommend court probation and minimum fines when Sawicki returns for sentencing, where he faces a maximum of two years in jail and $2,000 in fines for the two charges he was convicted of.
After speaking with attorneys in the case, the jury foreman, who asked not to be identified, called the trial “interesting” and “uncomfortable.”
“It looked like it was going to take a while,” he said, referring to when jurors first went into deliberations Tuesday afternoon.
The foreman said the prosecution hadn’t presented evidence that “beyond a reasonable doubt” proved Sawicki was guilty of the first three counts.
Regarding the electronic peeping charge – Sawicki videotaping unsuspecting Refugio park goers in a dressing and bathroom—the foreman said, “Everyone believed, at least to the reasonable doubt, that he was going to film his girlfriend.”
Jurors were all “on board” with the fact that Sawicki had evaded arrest, he said.
Gerard said she was disappointed that jurors found Sawicki not guilty – although some told her afterward that they had found him “creepy.”
“Although I disagree with the outcome, I am always proud when people give up their time,” Gerard said, holding up her own recently received jury summons. “I was absolutely surprised that they found him not guilty. I believe that the evidence clearly showed that he was guilty of all the charges.”