Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Police raid the home of San Francisco journalist, seeking info on a leaked death document, in a scene reminiscent of my "arrest for blogging" in Alabama


San Francisco cops prepare to break into
the home of journalist Bryan Carmody

San Francisco police detained a freelance journalist last Friday and raided his home in an effort to obtain the source of reporting on the death of a public defender in February.

Given my "arrest for blogging" in October 2013, and subsequent five-month stay in the Shelby County (AL) Jail, the San Francisco story hits close to home. As a matter of record, it appears I remain the only U.S. journalist to be arrested since 2006, and I'm clearly the only one to be incarcerated in that time. The detention of Bryan Carmody in San Francisco likely was lawful because it sought information related to a possible crime. My arrest, over a wholly civil matter, clearly was unlawful -- violating more than 200 years of First Amendment law.

That's not to say Carmody's detention wasn't disturbing to anyone who cares about freedom of the press. It certainly seems to speak to the rise of a police state in the Age of Trump. Like my arrest, it involved use of police violence inside a home, and that should alarm all citizens -- journalists or not. What kind of brown-shirt actions did police take in San Francisco? Here's how National Public Radio (NPR) describes it:

San Francisco police raided the home and office of a freelance journalist on Friday, taking a sledgehammer to the gate of his house and seizing his computers, phones and other devices.

Their goal: to uncover the source of a leaked police report in the possession of freelance videographer Bryan Carmody.

The raids on Carmody's home and office are the latest in a series of events concerning the death of San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi in February, at age 59.

Within hours of Adachi's collapse in a San Francisco apartment, details from a leaked police investigation into his death were already showing up in news reports, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

A number of the details in the police report were salacious, suggesting that perhaps one or more members of the police department were trying to tarnish the reputation of Adachi, who was known as a police watchdog and fierce advocate for criminal justice reform. In San Francisco, the public defender is an elected position.

Was Adachi, the public defender, targeted because of his willingness to stand up to cops? Does that explain law enforcement's rough treatment of Bryan Carmody? Those are two of many questions surrounding Adachi's death. From CBS News:

A freelance journalist is vowing to protect his source after San Francisco police raided his home and office while keeping him handcuffed for several hours as part of a criminal investigation, according to a newspaper report. Bryan Carmody told the Los Angeles Times that officers banged on his door Friday and confiscated dozens of personal items including notebooks, his cellphone, computer, hard drives and cameras.

A judge signed off on search warrants, which stated officers were investigating "stolen or embezzled" property, the newspaper reported Saturday. Authorities said the raid came during an ongoing probe into who leaked a confidential police report about the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Carmody said investigators had asked him a few weeks earlier to identify the source that provided him with the report. The reporter said he politely declined. 
While he was shackled, officers got a second warrant to search his newsroom, where police seized a thumb drive, CDs and, inside a safe, the leaked police report about Adachi's death, the Times said.

Curious details about Adachi's death quickly surfaced earlier this year, and that is when Carmody's investigative instincts kicked in, leading him to obtain the leaked police report. Thomas Burke, Carmody's lawyer, said the raid was "designed to intimidate" and "it's essentially the confiscation of a newsroom."

Jeff Adachi
What about those details on Adachi's death? CBS has details:

The document, as reported by KGO-TV in San Francisco, detailed that shortly before his death, Adachi had dinner with a woman named "Caterina" who was not his wife, then returned to an apartment he arranged to use for the weekend. The woman called 911 for emergency medical help, and Adachi was taken to the hospital, where he died. Later that night, officers went to the apartment and found "alcohol, cannabis-infused gummies and syringes believed to have been used by the paramedics," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Photos of the apartment circulated online by KTVU-TV and other news outlets.

Carmody told the Chronicle that he sold his news package on Adachi to three TV stations.

How has the raid impacted Carmody's ability to earn a living as a journalist? So far, his business is pretty much wiped out. From the Los Angeles Times:

The search has brought Carmody’s business, North Bay News, to a halt. As a freelance videographer for nearly three decades, he works through the night to supply the locations, video, images, and on- and off-camera interviews that feed the beast of local TV news. The search warrant documents show police collected check stubs from Fox, Disney and CBS, among others.

He estimates that police hauled off between $30,000 and $40,000 worth of equipment, along with personal photos. Without functional equipment, he cannot work — so his friend Aaron Lee started an online fundraiser to collect donations.

Carmody is insisting on protecting his source’s identity. And he swears he never paid the person for the police report. “No,” he said, “not even a cup of coffee.”

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

If this document was supposed to be confidential, why was someone so lax about keeping it under wraps?

Anonymous said...

It's gotta be fun to look out your front door and see cops with a sledgehammer.

Anonymous said...

Schnauzer, it sounds like you want to keep your record as last U.S. journalist to be incarcerated.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:21 --

Hey, I might as well; I earned it! A lot of suffering went into that.

legalschnauzer said...

BTW, no one can argue with a straight face that my arrest was lawful. Such action in a civil matter (defamation) has been unlawful for more than 200 years. As much as I dislike the law on this, the cops actions in the San Francisco case probably were lawful.

Fortunately,Mr. Carmody was not physically abused. I was.

Anonymous said...

How could the cops' actions in San Francisco be lawful? Don't seem lawful to me.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:56 --

It goes to a case called Branzburg v. Hayes, which I've written about before:


https://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2015/03/supreme-courts-ruling-in-branzburg.html


Here is key information about Branzburg:


The First Amendment does not relieve a newspaper reporter of the obligation that all citizens have to respond to a grand jury subpoena and answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation, and therefore the Amendment does not afford him a constitutional testimonial privilege for an agreement he makes to conceal facts relevant to a grand jury's investigation of a crime or to conceal the criminal conduct of his source or evidence thereof.


In other words, if a journalist apparently has information that might be needed in a criminal case, a judge can lawfully order him to turn it over. If he refuses, he can be subject to the actions directed at Mr. Carmody.

I think the court's finding in Branzburg is off target and weakens the First Amendment. But the court did not ask for my opinion back then.

Anonymous said...

So glad this didn't happen in the South. Our image is bad enough already.

Anonymous said...

What are the chances this journo will get his equipment back or that cops will fix the door they broke?

Anonymous said...

I'm betting cops were involved in Mr. Adachi's death. Perhaps "Caterina" (sounds like a Russian name) was working for the cops.

legalschnauzer said...

Here are some interesting details from a report at CNN:


The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for civil liberties in the digital age and is based in San Francisco, also released a statement through David Greene, the organization's civil liberties director and senior staff attorney. Greene said the police department's statement fails to address the illegality of its search warrant.

"California law has an absolute ban on the use of a search warrant to obtain materials in possession of a journalist," Greene said. "So when a warrant is used to obtain materials from a journalist, our first thought is that is against the law."

Greene added there are no exceptions no matter the investigation.

"That a judge signed the search warrant means either the judge made an error or maybe the police did not inform the court that the person was a journalist," he said.


https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/14/media/california-journalist-equipment-seized/index.html

e.a.f. said...

there has to be something big going on to go to this length. there was no need to handcuff the journalist It would appear the police ant to put this man out of business if they took his tools of the trade. they may have wanted file, etc, but that doesn't mean they need his cameras also. expect to hear more on this one for sure.