Last Friday San Francisco police raided the home of a freelance journalist Bryan Carmody. Eight to ten uniformed officers walked up to Mr. Carmody’s front door with sledgehammers ready to breach he’s residence. The San Francisco Police department were executing a search warrant for his computers, phones, and other devices concerning a leaked police report.

The reason for the search warrant was to uncover  the source of the leaked police report in possession of Mr. Carmody. 

The raids by the SFPD on Carmody’s home and office are the latest in the events regarding the death of public defender Jeff Adachi back in February of 2019, at the age of 59.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, details from the SFPD investigation into Adachi’s death where already showing up in news coverage. 

Details in the police report began to emerge that members of the SFPD where trying to potential damage the reputation of Mr. Adachi.  Adachi was known as a police watchdog and advocate for criminal justice reform.

Regarding the leaks of the police investigation into Adachi’s death Mr. Carmody told The Los Angeles Times, “There where leaks happening all over the place.” Carmody sold the police report to three TV news stations in the local area. 

About two weeks ago two SFPD officers came to Mr. Carmody’s and asked him to reveal the source, which he declined to do. Fast forward to last Friday, when 8 to 10 police officers show up with sledgehammers in tow. Instead of them busting down the door, Carmody lets the officers in. 

Once letting the officers in Mr. Carmody was handcuffed while police search his residence for the police report in question. The search warrant was for stolen or embezzled property, the Times reports.

While executing the search warrant federal law enforcement officers attempted to talk to Mr. Carmody who continued go request to speak to a lawyer before talking to law enforcement officials. The police report in question was found in a safe that Mr. Carmody owns at his residence. 

The FBI, told the Times that they had two agents present to interview Mr. Carmody but did not participate in the search. 

The Chronicle reached out to the SFPD. David Stevenson, a spokesman SFPD told the Chronicle, ” the search warrant executed today was granted by a judge and conducted as part of a criminal investigation into the leak of the Adachi police report.” He called it “one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of a confidential police report.”

The raid of Mr. Carmody’s house raises some important concerns on the infringement of freedom of speech here in America. 

Where proper protocols followed? Is there any protections for journalist in regards to keeping a source protected? Was the issuing of the warrant in the purview of the courts? 

According to Mr. Carmody’s lawyer and The Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter it is not. In Mr. Carmody’s lawyer statement to the Associated Press he expresses that also in a press release by The Freedom of Information Committee. Below I will enclose their statements to the press. 

Carmody’s Lawyer Statement to the AP

“It’s designed to intimidate,” Carmody’s lawyer, Thomas Burke, told The Associated Press. “It’s essentially the confiscation of a newsroom.”

Burke said that normally journalists would receive a subpoena and then get a lawyer to ensure the proper protections. “So much information has nothing to do with the purpose of their investigation,” he said. “If you are looking for one piece of information, that’s why you issue a subpoena.”

The Freedom of Information Press Release

The Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California chapter released a statement condemning the raid, citing California’s Shield Law that protects journalists from being held in contempt for refusing to divulge sources or unpublished information.

“That this search was carried out weeks after Carmody declined a request from San Francisco police to divulge his sources shows an alarming disregard for the right to gather and report on information,” the committee wrote.

The group alluded to the notion that news outlets’ publishing of the leaked police report didn’t necessarily adhere to its ethics guidelines: “The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics directs: ‘[D]o not pay for access to news’ and says reporters should ‘avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.’ Journalists should consider the motivations of anonymous sources and news organizations should disclose when content has been provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.”

The group says that in no way justifies the seizure of Carmody’s equipment, which he estimated as being worth $30,000 to $40,000.

“While there may be legitimate questions on the circumstances surrounding the reporting of Adachi’s death, the seizure of any journalist’s notes or other reporting materials sets a dangerous precedent,” the committee writes. “An attack on the rights of one journalist is an attack on the rights of all journalists.”

The new Public Defender, Manohar Raju approved of the SFPD actions on the raid of Bryan Carmody’s residence. 

“All of our criminal justice and City Hall leaders agree that the release of police reports in this fashion is wrong,” Raju said in a statement to the Chronicle. “I am pleased that Chief Scott and others (are) keeping their word and working to get to the bottom of it.”

There is a lot going on with this news of this raid on a reporters house for confidential information. What do you think of the raid? Is it within the police and courts purview? How far do we go to gather information? Do you think this was a blatant abuse of judicial power? Let me know down in the comments. 

Below I will have links to the articles below

Thanks for Reading

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San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles Times

Washington Post

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