Released Warrant Shows SFPD Started Monitoring Journalist's Phone Weeks Before Officers Raided His Home

from the internal-investigations-weird-rn dept

More details have surfaced about the San Francisco Police Department’s search of journalist Bryan Carmody’s residence. The affidavits for the search of his house remain under seal, but the SFPD’s police chief has already admitted these “lacked clarity.” This strongly suggests the affidavits didn’t mention Carmody’s profession to avoid having them rejected for violating California’s journalist shield law.

Some of this civil liberties-punching paperwork has been released. And it shows the SFPD spent several weeks monitoring Carmody’s communications before deciding to bring the rights violations to his doorstep.

San Francisco police obtained a warrant to search a freelance journalist’s phone records and were authorized to “conduct remote monitoring” on the phone more than two months before a controversial raid on his home and office, according to documents released Friday.

Officers executed the warrant on Bryan Carmody’s phone records on March 1 — the first of seven search warrants obtained in the investigation into who leaked him a report on the Feb. 22 death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

There’s no extended affidavit attached to the warrant [PDF], but the short description of the investigation makes no mention of Bryan Carmody’s line of work. All it does is claim Carmody is suspected to be involved in the theft of the leaked police report detailing public defender Jeff Adachi’s death.

Nature of investigation: Mr. Carmody is being investigated as a co-conspirator in the theft of the San Francisco Police report, involving the death investigation of Jeff Adachi. The criminal investigation focuses on the conspiracy to commit a crime, the theft of a police report, and the willful obstruction of justice.

This part of the warrant says the SFPD is only seeking phone records spanning two days in February. But on the next page, the court authorizes ongoing “remote monitoring” of Carmody’s phone “until the conclusion of the investigation.” This includes signals produced in “locations not open to the public or visual surveillance.”

This warrant wasn’t handed to the SF Chronicle by the court or the SFPD, but rather by Bryan Carmody, who was finally notified of this particular search three months after it happened.

The warrant also shows the SFPD had Carmody in its sights long before most of the public was aware he was the source of the leaked death report obtained by other reporters. As the Chronicle’s article points out, the first public statement on Carmody’s involvement came during a Board of Supervisors meeting in April in which the city’s public defender’s office revealed this information. The phone monitoring warrant was granted on March 1st, only days after news stations published the leaked document.

Every new development makes the SFPD look worse. The department may not be making the hole any deeper at this point, but its prior groundwork has proven to have created a far deeper hole than early estimates indicated.

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Comments on “Released Warrant Shows SFPD Started Monitoring Journalist's Phone Weeks Before Officers Raided His Home”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While I agree that management, like fish, stink from the head first, the Chief of Police were not the only dirty hands in this. There were prosecutors and judges who approved search warrants with out significant details, like the occupation of the target, which was well known to the police, but apparently not (at least I hope) the judge.

For that matter, why not ask for the resignation of the DA, the Mayor, the Governor, the Attorney General?

I think going after the cops that made the warrant requests, did the break in, and their immediate supervisors might be better targets. That is not to say that those managers mentioned above should not have some retribution, but they are elected rather than hired, and therefore need a different kind of retribution, a kind that should be made available to their replacements as well.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Re: "The warrant lacked clarity"

The presumption is that lawyers are, first and foremost, agents of the court. They advocate for their clients, but have a duty to do so within the law.

That pretty much gives the judge a free pass when it comes to warrants. The warrant application should have included the target’s occupation and a reference to the applicable law. But of course that would make it clear that they were requesting an illegal search, so it didn’t happen.

I personally believe that the judge screwed up in approving a clearly illegal search, but the system puts the blame on the person that signed the warrant application.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "The warrant lacked clarity"

The warrant application was nominally written by Sgt. Joseph Obidi. Obidi now has a lawyer, who claims that the warrant was written at the direction of Obidi’s "superiors on the command staff".

So Obidi should be nominally responsible, but did it at the direction of higher-ups. But they don’t have the legal responsibility, so they aren’t to blame either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "The warrant lacked clarity"

"but the system puts the blame on the person that signed the warrant application."

No, the Law absolutely places full responsibility upon the judicial official who signs the warrant.

Why bother with judges at all, if your view is correct ??

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "The warrant lacked clarity"

I think it’s more complex than that. The one signing the warrant is responsible for making the decision based on the available information, and the one signing the warrant application is responsible for making all pertinent information correctly available.

You cannot just concoct a bullshit warrant application and legally require the judge to have a task force of their own that is going to fact-check it.

aldestrawk (profile) says:

There is an interview and a news conference in which Chief Scott said that Carmody was described in the warrants (in the affidavit portion only, it appears) as a freelance videographer and a communications manager. This is a description he said came from Carmody’s LinkedIn profile.

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