San Francisco police gave a judge numerous indications that a man who obtained a confidential police report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi was a journalist when they applied for a search warrant to unmask his source, court records released Tuesday show.
But the warrant’s affidavit shows that San Francisco Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang nevertheless cleared police to raid Bryan Carmody’s office on May 10, despite California’s Shield Law, which protects journalists from being compelled to reveal confidential sources and unpublished material like notes and photographs. The law applies to freelancers and specifically bars police searches.
In unsealing and quashing the May 10 warrant last week, Hwang joined three other Superior Court judges in conceding that Carmody was a journalist protected by the state’s shield law. Judges Gail Dekreon, Christopher Hite, Rochelle East and Hwang all said they were unaware Carmody had a press pass.
Investigators didn’t include that Carmody had a press pass in any of the warrants. In the warrants signed by East and Hite, police only identified him as a “Freelance Videographer/Communications manager, USO Bay Area.” The warrant Dekreon signed, which cleared police to search Carmody’s home, has not yet been released.
Carmody’s attorney, Ben Berkowitz, on Tuesday said he was “gratified” the judges quashed the “illegal search warrants.”
“It’s now clear from the unsealed warrant applications that the SFPD knew Bryan was a journalist when they sought these illegal warrants,” he said in a statement. “We continue to call on Mayor (London) Breed, the Board of Supervisors and Police Chief Scott to make real reforms. It should never be the case that law enforcement intentionally violates the protections of the First Amendment and California’s Shield Law to spy on a journalist.”
Read the full report here.