San Francisco PD Raids Journalist's Home To Find Out Which One Of Its Cops Leaked An Autopsy Report

from the tfw-an-internal-investigation-ends-up-inside-a-civilian's-house dept

If someone at your police department has leaked a sensitive documents, how should you respond?

A. Conduct an internal investigation to find the source of the leak

B. Raid a journalist’s home

If you’re the San Francisco Police Department, you do both.

San Francisco police on Friday raided the home of a freelance journalist who provided three Bay Area television stations with a copy of a police report into the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, the journalist and police officials said.

Bryan Carmody, a freelance videographer known in the industry as a stringer, told The Chronicle that San Francisco police executed a search warrant at his Outer Richmond District home and Western Addition office and seized his computers, cell phones and other electronic devices.

Whoever leaked it, did it quick. The autopsy report appeared on newcasts only hours after the public defender collapsed in his apartment. An internal investigation was opened following some public criticism of the PD’s handling of sensitive info. The leaking of this document suggested someone in the force wanted to take a shot at the public defender (and fierce critic of the PD) only hours after his passing by letting the public know about the illegal substances found in Adachi’s system. City officials recognized this and came down hard on police officials.

In response, the SFPD has apparently decided to externalize its internal investigation. While it’s possible this raid will ultimately result in the discovery of the leaker, this end does not justify the means. Law enforcement does serious damage to protected speech when it goes after journalists to out their sources. If the SFPD had restricted its investigation to its own officers, journalists wouldn’t be feeling a chill descending on their line of work.

And this all came about because the SFPD can’t take “no” for an answer. Journalists should protect their sources. If they don’t, they soon won’t have any. Courts have recognized the need to protect sources, as have a handful of journalist shield laws around the nation.

“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,” said David Stevenson, a police spokesman.

He added that the “actions are one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of a confidential police report.”

[Journalist Brian] Carmody said two inspectors with the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau “politely asked” for his source on the Adachi report two weeks ago, but he declined to reveal the person’s name.

This is a dangerous game the SFPD’s playing. It’s betting a court won’t find a stringer protected by California’s journalist shield law. There’s no case law stating affirmatively that freelance journalists are covered by this law, but the text of the law suggests stringers who sell footage, photos, and information to other journalists are probably protected.

A publisher, editor, reporter, or other person connected with or employed upon a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, or by a press association or wire service, or any person who has been so connected or employed, cannot be adjudged in contempt by a judicial, legislative, administrative body, or any other body having the power to issue subpoenas, for refusing to disclose, in any proceeding as defined in Section 901, the source of any information procured while so connected or employed for publication in a newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication, or for refusing to disclose any unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public.

That’s not going to play well in court. The state’s shield law provides absolute immunity in criminal prosecutions and contempt hearings when the journalist is not being criminally charged. It doesn’t appear anyone’s planning on charging this journalist with a criminal act… at least not at this point. And yet, the PD decided to treat him like a criminal to search for evidence needed to close its internal investigation. There’s a good chance the SFPD misrepresented what Carmody did for a living to sneak the warrant past the judge and the state’s shield law. And with this possibly bogus warrant, it seized 15 computers, “numerous tablets,” and Carmody’s personal cellphone. If Carmody decides to sue, it’s going to be very difficult for the SFPD to defend its actions.

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Comments on “San Francisco PD Raids Journalist's Home To Find Out Which One Of Its Cops Leaked An Autopsy Report”

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Anonymous Coward says:

This is a dangerous game the SFPD’s playing. It’s betting a court won’t find a stringer protected by California’s journalist shield law.

Is that really the only reason SFPD might be in trouble here? Was the "stringer" accused of a crime? If not, how the hell did they get a search warrant, storm into an innocent man’s home and confiscate several of his belongings?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The charge was likely obstruction of justice. The problem is that he should have been protected by the shield law. The further problems will include the perjury committed by the officers who swore out an affidavit in obtaining the search warrant, which could only have happened by lying to the judge. They won’t be punished.

Further, autopsy reports are probably public records, which should only be withheld from the public if they are part of an ongoing investigation. The only investigations mentioned were the who leaked the report, internal and external investigations.

Was there also an investigation of the PD’s death? Even if there was, that autopsy report would have to be disclosed to the defense and then used in court. That is of course, what was the source of those illegal substances? Is that what an investigation into the PD’s death about? Is there a cover-up occurring here? Would the DA try to hold a secret trial to protect some law enforcement personnel?

Now that I have mentioned all these bad possibilities, there may be something innocent, except the lying to the judge and the violation of the shield law by the PD looking for something where they should not be looking.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Obstruction rarely flies in this kind of thing.

They should have claimed "receipt" or "possession" of stolen property, Judges don’t have a problem signing warrants with those kind of charges.

And it pretty much nullifies "source protection" when it’s phrased as "who did you obtain the stolen items from?".

As to autopsy reports, yes, they’re generally public record, you need to file for a copy. And wait just about forever, since if there’s no Subpoena attached, they don’t give it a high priority.

But that’s been blurred a bit around the country, as they’re performed (usually) by the County, and the hierarchy can get confusing.

Do you want the Autopsy Report, the Forensic Report, the Coroner’s Report, the Medical Examiner’s Report, or the Attending Pathologist’s Report?

Just did a quick search for the generic "autopsy report""

"Autopsy reports are generally public records. There are exceptions for (1) deaths from natural causes not referred to the coroner and (2) reports pertaining to criminal litigation. others as directed by court order or subpoena."

That’s generic – it varies by state and county, but they all pretty much follow those guidelines.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I can see this quickly being weaponized as "the new SWATting". I copy some documents the public isn’t supposed to see, send them through an anonymous emailer to your address, then anonymously tip off the cops that you received these "stolen" documents. Say goodbye to your Summer and all of your electronic devices.

Giant pile of WTF.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:2 sharyl Atkisson

It has already happened to many of us, most notably,former CBS reporter Sharyl Atkisson.

In that case, her CBS issued laptop, and her home computers got infected with mystery documents, and an IP address that phoned home to the USPS.

This was only discovered because she hired an independent forensics consultant retired from the NSA.

I linked her gofundme campaign below.

The FVEYs and CIA /NSA / FBI Et alphabet via private contractors and Tel Aviv, UAE etc. are truly waging war on our constitution now, and that was James aka “Rockin‘ Rienhold Niehbuhrs" FBI that ran a pseudo investigation into that.

Then, there were other journalists -love em or not – on the altRight that got the CP treatment during the election cycle, and the first shot across the bow in 2009 or so, Audrey Hudsons case, where Coast Guard (WTF! ?)investigators kicked in her life. The DHS settled that lawsuit, and she was vindicated.

Most interestingly is that these were conservatives, and now as we see it happening to socalled progressives and liberals, everyone is alarmed.

The famous Larry Mathews case is still taught in journalism school as a warning to all of us, but sadly, media is tribalist and sectarian on these issues, selectively reporting these cases. to the detriment of all.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: We shouldn't allow the SFPD to conduct it's own investigations

We shouldn’t allow the SFPD to conduct any investigations.

No, this is another one of those incidents that shows local police don’t serve the public rather it serves our feudal lords. We serfs have to find our own justice while avoiding theirs.

(Which is how little baby mafias are made.)

Tin-Foil-Hat says:

Why confidential?

Why should information like this be confiidential? Under these circumstances an investigation should include a third party investigation and special prosecutor. There may not be corruption involved but it has the look of impropriety especially with a cherry picked release of false information and the withholding of everything else.

tyranny and transexual pursuits says:

police use hookers who knew

The police should be arrested and killed by justice and liberty. kill all the dumb stupid police and their henchmen masters of prostitute users. prostitutes should undo their work and stop being de masculated and re masculate others instead. let no more police poke them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

That's a feature, not a bug

And this all came about because the SFPD can’t take "no" for an answer. Journalists should protect their sources. If they don’t, they soon won’t have any.

Well yeah, that’s why the police do things like this, to ‘encourage’ any potential sources to stay silent and not go to a reporter/journalist, which might result in police ‘misconduct’ going public.

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