San Francisco police raided a journalist’s home and confiscated over $30,000 worth of equipment, after he leaked a confidential document.
Bryan Carmody is a freelance journalist who published a video news package about the death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi. The package was sold to several news stations, and included information from a confidential police report, NPR reported.
City officials publicly blamed police for letting the confidential report end up in the news, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Adachi’s widow called the release of the report “despicable.” Police Commander Greg McEachern offered the Adachi family an apology.
The police then launched an internal investigation to find the source of the leak.
My home and business were raided by the SFPD and the FBI today. This is part of a campaign to make me divulge a confidential source. I will not. https://t.co/qa7uNjy4wy
— Bryan C. Carmody (@bryanccarmody) May 11, 2019
“The citizens and leaders of the City of San Francisco have demanded a complete and thorough investigation into this leak, and this action represents a step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of confidential police material,” police spokesman David Stevenson said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
That investigation led police to obtain a warrant for a raid on Carmody’s home, out of which he also operates his newsroom. In the weeks leading up to the raid, Carmody refused to reveal his source when asked by investigators.
A report from ABC 7 titled “ABC7 obtains San Francisco police report on death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi” indeed shows photos and a police report, and reveals information that could be deemed sensitive to a police investigation. ABC 7 also does not reveal in the report where they obtained this information.
The Public Defender’s Office also reportedly wasn’t happy with the leak. They said in a statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times that “all of the criminal justice and City Hall leaders agree that the release of police reports in this fashion is wrong and we hope that the truth of who leaked the police report will emerge so that it doesn’t happen again.”
Some people saw the police report as an attempt to denigrate the legacy of Adachi, since the sensitive information surrounding the circumstances of his death it reveals tarnishes his image.
Some see it as an attempt to ridicule Adachi, since he was an adversary of the police in his 17 years in office. Police came under great pressure to figure out how the report was released.
“When there are these politically motivated attacks on individuals, whether it’s the public defender or a member of our community, it absolutely erodes the public trust in the police department, in your ability to be objective—to serve the community in a way that we can all rely on and depend on,” Supervisor Hillary Ronen said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A journalist organization took a different tone. They were more worried about the raid on Carmody’s office and seizure of his personal equipment, the tools he needs to run his news business.
Carmody was handcuffed for over five hours while police conducted the raid, the Los Angeles Times confirmed.
The local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists wrote: “SPJ NorCal’s Freedom of Information Committee condemns the recent raid by law enforcement of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, in an apparent attempt to identify the confidential source who provided Carmody with a copy of a police report detailing the circumstances of former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s death. During the search, law enforcement officers seized documents, notes, and a slew of digital devices from Carmody’s home and office.”
“An attack on the rights of one journalist is an attack on the rights of all journalists.”
— Joe Fitz Rodriguez (@FitzTheReporter) May 13, 2019
The group also acknowledged that the distribution of the police report and the contents therein could be deemed problematic.
“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,” wrote the group.