A Family's Nightmare: Accident Photos of Their Beautiful Daughter Released

"After a thorough and complete investigation we have determined that a CHP employee did violate departmental policy in this matter. Appropriate action has taken place to preclude a similar occurrence in the future," the letter, signed by Orange County Communications Center Lt. Cmdr. Paul Depaola, states.

"Again, my sympathy to you and your family at this difficult time of loss," Depaola wrote.

"The CHP has taken the position that plaintiffs do not have a civil case against them because the release of the photographs, while morally wrong, did not violate any governmental regulation or statute," Bremer said.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Steven Perk refused to dismiss the case against the California Highway Patrol. Bremer expects more challenges to the lawsuit from the dispatchers as well.

'She Was a Person'

Rex Parris, a lawyer for defendant Thomas O'Donnell, said his client is innocent of any wrongdoing and said that O'Donnell did not leak any of the photos. He only received pictures and sent them to his own, personal e-mail, Parris said.

O'Donnell says that the agency isn't defending him in the lawsuit, and that he feels abandoned.

"I don't understand why the department isn't sitting here with me, helping me," he said.

"Other than looking at the photographs and forwarding them to his own private e-mail account, he did nothing," Parris said. "He was just a recipient of the digital photographs, he didn't forward them on to anyone," Parris said.

Sharing photographs of accident scenes are a part of the job for highway patrol workers and dispatchers, and always have been, he said. He claimed that as long as taking accident scene pictures remains part of CHP policy, incidents such as this one will continue to come up.

"There isn't anybody out there that wouldn't want to protect this family from seeing those photographs," Parris said. "This is an issue of technology, not morality or equal prohibition. It's one of those painful things that come along with technology."

Parris and Bremer said the CHP should apologize.

"It is disappointing that the CHP acknowledges an internal error of this magnitude has occurred," Bremer said, "but steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the ramifications and extent of pain it has caused the Catsouras family."

"They'd like the California Highway Patrol, which has admitted that internal policies were violated, to come and say that they are sorry."

On the first anniversary of Nikki's death, the Catsouras family cut together a video tribute with their own pictures of Nikki, set to the song "Angel," which is what her father always called her.

"I feel like no one really realized she was a person, and they in a sick way got really entertained by this photograph, and it's just sad that someone can feel the need to put it out and keep it going on and harming others by putting it up," said Danielle.

"We are a real family with real hearts," said Christos. "And it hurts what people are doing."

Protecting Your Online Reputation: Advice from ReputationDefender

1. Be smart about what photos and videos you put on the Web. Think of every item as a possible tattoo that could last for years.

2. In addition to refraining from giving out personal details, like your contact information, be careful not to reveal too much about your personal health or professional life, for example, salary information.

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