SFPD Earning Universal Condemnation For Raiding A Journalist's Home During Its Internal Leak Investigation

from the way-to-project,-guys dept

When the San Francisco Police Department decided to externalize its internal investigation of a leaked document, things got unlawful and unconstitutional in a hurry. Deciding the best way to sniff out the leaker of a police report detailing the death of prominent public defender Jeff Adachi was through the front door of a local journalist, the SFPD now has a lot of explaining to do.

The SFPD raided journalist Bryan Carmody's home supposedly to find information that would lead them to one of its own officers. Carmody is a stringer and had shopped around a copy of the police report someone inside the SFPD leaked to him. None of this is criminal. Nothing about Carmody's information-gathering fell outside of the law. If anyone broke the law, it was the officer or PD employee who gave him the report.

That fact notwithstanding, officers showed up at Carmody's house and -- after waging a losing battle with an impressive front gate -- handcuffed him for six hours while confiscating $10,000-worth of electronic devices and computers. It's safe to assume these items contained plenty of information Carmody had gathered from other sources, as well as information about those sources. Again, this search and seizure violated the state's journalist shield law, if not the US Constitution itself.

Carmody has released security footage of the SFPD's arrival. One can only assume his front gate will be facing obstruction of justice charges.

This case has numerous disturbing aspects, starting with the leak itself. Jeff Adachi was an elected public defender and a fierce critic of local law enforcement. This likely motivated the leak of the police report, which alleged Adachi had died of a possible cocaine overdose while enjoying the company of a woman who wasn't his wife. A chance to smear a vocal opponent of law enforcement abuses was too good to pass up.

When the news first broke, city officials claimed law enforcement did nothing wrong. These were knee-jerk assertions but that doesn't excuse officials for responding this badly when confronted with unexpected (and unexpectedly bad) news.

Now that everyone's given it a bit more thought, the SFPD is on its own, bereft of high-level defenders.

The [San Francisco] Board of Supervisors’ longest-tenured member, Aaron Peskin, blasted both the police and the judges who issued the warrants.

“[T]he State Penal Code clearly states that ‘no warrant shall issue’ to compel a journalist to disclose a source. The fact that the Superior Court nevertheless signed warrants authorizing police to conduct a raid on a journalist’s home and to confiscate their belongings boggles my mind,” Peskin said in a written statement on May 15.

“Regardless, the police have clearly gone about this the wrong way,” the statement continued. “Last month, the Board of Supervisors held a hearing to hold the San Francisco Police Department accountable for its role in the release of confidential and highly sensitive, personal information related to former Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s tragic death, which I co-sponsored. That they took this as license to break down a journalist’s door with a sledgehammer is an obvious deflection from their own accountability.”

The mayor has also issued a new statement, undoing the "I'm sure the cops were doing the right thing" assertions they made right after the news broke. Mayor London Breed walked back support of the SFPD, but still hedged a bit when it came to criticizing the judges who had approved the search warrant.

[T]wo judges issued the search warrant, and I have to believe that the judges’ decision was legal and warranted, and therefore so was the search.

Whether or not the search was legal, warranted and appropriate, however, is another question.

And the more we learn, the less appropriate it looks to me.

How appropriate the search was remains to be seen. The search warrant application remains sealed. The only upshot of this search backfiring so spectacularly is that the SFPD is returning Carmody's property to him -- likely months before it would have if this had managed to fly under the radar.

More surprisingly, the District Attorney's office has turned against the SFPD and is openly questioning the search of Carmody's home.

My office has not seen the warrant or the facts upon which it was based, but absent a showing that a journalist broke the law to obtain the information that police are looking for, I can’t imagine a situation in which a search warrant would be appropriate.

Even if there were such a showing, however, no search should have been conducted without the use of a special master. Journalists have multiple sources to whom they owe confidences, similar to an attorney who has multiple clients to whom they owe attorney-client privilege.

Seizing the entire haystack to find the needle risks violating the confidences Mr. Carmody owes to all his sources, not just the person who leaked the police report.

The SFPD has stepped in it... hard... with both jackboots. Carmody was originally questioned by the SFPD prior to the raid but refused to provide any answers and asked to speak to a lawyer. It should have ended there. But rather than raid the homes of suspects wearing badges, it chose to violate state law by raiding the home of an uncooperative journalist.

Filed Under: bryan carmody, jeff adachi, journalism, sfpd, source protection, sources, warrants


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 23 May 2019 @ 5:22am

    [T]wo judges issued the search warrant, and I have to believe
    that the judges’ decision was legal and warranted, and therefore
    so was the search.

    Whether or not the search was legal, warranted and appropriate,
    however, is another question.

    Basically, this translates to: "The search was legal, however, whether or not the search was legal is another question."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 4:17pm

      Re:

      The translation is

      "The judges’ decision was legal and warranted, and therefore so was the search. Whether or not the search was appropriate, however, is another question."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 6:13am

    Meanwhile, in SFPD computer forensics...

    supervisor - "Come on, all that stuff from that journalist guy? We gotta return it Right Now!"

    technician - "But... we haven't even finished cloning all the thumb drives!"

    supervisor - "Didn't you hear me, maggot?! I said NOW! The press, the mayor, even the DA, they're all on our case! We don't have TIME!"

    technician - "well, as long as it was all worth it, then..."

    technician 2 - (sotto voce) "I told you we needed to keep our resumes current..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 10:52am

      Re: Meanwhile, in SFPD computer forensics...

      Oh, you KNOW they've already clones all the drives. That's why they were willing to return his devices - they already got what they wanted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 6:46am

    "[T]he State Penal Code clearly states..."

    Oh come on, you can't expect cops and judges to actually know the law, can you? I know they say "ignorance of the law is no excuse", but that only applies to people outside the legal system.

    /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 23 May 2019 @ 6:50am

    Knock knock

    I want to know who makes that gate... :)

    What is disturbing is the huge prevalence of no-knock warrants. I see no evidence the police rang the doorbell and waited for an answer first. What's the justification for no-knock? The guy is going to flush $10,000 worth of electronic devices down the toilet? If he has any computer smarts, that includes multiple backups - you don't just erase the works on a dozen devices with a touch of a button except in Hollywood. (and if he did while the police were knocking, that could be obstruction). Plus who erases their life work because the police are at the door, when your data is supposedly protected by the first and fourth amendments?

    The only thing that surprises me is that the police were not in camouflage, and that there was no armoured vehicle outside.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 7:03am

      Re: Knock knock

      They had to prevent him from getting his lawyer present before they could complete their illegal search.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 7:15am

    Whatever company made that gate is in for a gigantic business boom!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 7:25am

    Once again, police earning the hate. That's pretty disgusting. This seems to be the new norm these days. The police stepping all over your constitutional rights.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ed (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 7:52am

    I don't believe Breed for a second, either. She's always been a smarmy opportunist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    383bigblock (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 8:35am

    Door Manufacturer

    Hell I want the name of the door company ......Seemed to do it's job since most burglars wouldn't have that much time or resources to break in.

    Good job.....

    Oh.. sorry back to the thread - Typical Police bullshit where they have license to violate any law they want in the name of retribution. Need to get me a badge too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      btr1701 (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 11:24am

      Re: Door Manufacturer

      Hell I want the name of the door company ......Seemed to do it's job since most burglars wouldn't have that much time or resources to break in.

      Well, this is San Francisco, after all. Given California's crusade to empty out the prisons as well the city's desire to coddle all the vagrants by literally not enforcing any laws against them, you pretty much need Hadrian's Wall to keep yourself and your stuff safe these days.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 12:01pm

        Re: Re: Door Manufacturer

        What is the purpose for prison?

        Is it to protect the populace from violent offenders?
        Is it to provide rehabilitation for anticipated release in society?
        Is it vengeance?

        Non violent offenders do not belong in prison.
        After having served their time for a non violent offense, they leave prison a violent ex con who will most likely commit crimes but now they will be violent .... brilliant isn't it?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          btr1701 (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: Door Manufacturer

          Non violent offenders do not belong in prison.

          Fuck that noise. If, for example, someone steals my life's savings, they damn well do belong in prison. The fact that they did it non-violently with a keyboard and a mouse is irrelevant.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 9:42am

    Man Bites Dog

    That cops conduct illegal no-knock searches, detentions, and seizures is Dog-Bites-Man. The flip-side is that darned gate!

    The manufacturer should be offering Carmody free repairs or replacement of his gate and a wheel-barrow full of money for the rights to that video...marketing gold.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OA (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 9:46am

    The front gate resisted arrest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 23 May 2019 @ 9:46am

    Get your popcorn!

    I'm curious what the warrant says. Did the PD lie to the judge? Did the judge knowingly approve the warrant?

    This looks like it will be interesting to follow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 23 May 2019 @ 10:05am

    Together we Stand, Divided we Fall.

    Again, this search and seizure violated the state's journalist shield law, if not the US Constitution itself.

    There is no need for the state's journalist shield law if the US Constitution is still the supreme law of the land.

    This type of niche legislation (in this instance journalists protections) seeks to provide extra-constitutional and wholly unnecessary protections to certain classes of persons deemed more worthy than other classes of persons at the expense of the US Constitution.

    Niche legislation of this type only serves further to fracture the nation by carving out special exemptions under the law for some of persons rather than equal protection under the law for all persons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jeren, 24 May 2019 @ 6:34am

      Re: Together we Stand, Divided we Fall.

      On the contrary. It's something that's done to civilians all the time. Those are separate laws that were broken, so it's multiple charges to be made (or that would be made if these were real people and not "the law").

      It was illegal to sign that warrant. It was illegal to ask for that warrant. It was illegal to execute that warrant, and the actions taken in the execution of that warrant were also illegal. When real people are charged, these would all be crimes one would be charged and could be found guilty and sentenced for, individually.

      In fact by law and numerous supreme court decisions, the use of deadly force by anyone - journalist or random bystander at the scene - against the cops would have been legitimate, as their illegal acts all had "with a deadly weapon" added to the end of it. Even the judge who abused their position to sign an illegal warrant would have been held responsible, like any other accomplice does, as an accessory had any deaths occurred.

      The other reason it's important to have both these laws is that constitutional violations by law enforcement continuously get okayed and handwaved at the state level. The Constitution, important as it is, is riddled with loopholes if one has good enough - or lazy enough if your lawyer's actually the one in charge of indicting you - lawyers and can be swept under the rug through years of debate and appealing on the overloaded federal circuits.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 11:19am

    Door Obstruction

    One can only assume his front gate will be facing obstruction of justice charges.

    That was said as a joke, but I've seen cops actually try and charge people with obstruction for not making their home easily accessible to police. If they have to work to get in your house when they want to, many cops think locks, bars, bolts, and braces are de facto obstruction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2019 @ 12:04pm

      Re: Door Obstruction

      They've got their tanks ... why not just smash the house or blast it to pieces. Sounds like a really good time. Certainly makes it more difficult to determine what they stole.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 11:51am

    Isnt there a regulation??

    That a civil servant Should not do what he thinks is illegal?? Even if told to do so by a person in charge or of higher rank??

    The USA gov. has this law..why not the City/state police?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 May 2019 @ 3:53pm

    Ah politicians...

    [T]wo judges issued the search warrant, and I have to believe that the judges’ decision was legal and warranted, and therefore so was the search.

    Whether or not the search was legal, warranted and appropriate, however, is another question.

    Talk about a text-book perfect example of trying to have it both ways. So desperate to avoid saying anything bad about judges they're trying to claim both that the warrant and resulting search was legal, and that the legality of the search is questionable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonyOps, 23 May 2019 @ 9:06pm

    The judge who signed the warrant is liable as well as those who carried out the warrant. It's called fraud.

    "Under the Commerce Clause which was designed to allow Congress to regulate interstate economic matters, and not as a front for Congress to promote a particular moral vision under the guise of economic regulation. ... Ultimately, supporters prevailed, and Congress passed Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Commerce Clause has been hi-jacked to serve the fraud of criminal abductors and violate the law with official oppression. An unlawful use of revenue is transparent." The collection of fines and fees and remuneration for crimes or civil matters (note: read the entire sections for specific catch all violations of law in regard to Tax Fraud).

    See: 18 U.S. Code § 245 - Federally protected activities a(1) (2), b 2(E)
    18 U.S. Code § 241 - Conspiracy against rights
    18 U.S. Code § 242 - Deprivation of rights under color of law
    26 U.S. Code § 7214 - Offenses by officers and employees of the United States a (4 thru 9)

    Violations are to be notifiable to the TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau) of the applicable jurisdiction of the United States Federal Government or to the state to which the violation(s) occurred. They are hoping that he does not know this fact.

    See:

    27 CFR 70.333 - Offenses by officers and employees of the United States.

    See: 2 U.S. Code § 192 - Refusal of witness to testify or produce papers

    In the legal criminal framework, one must have mens rea, actus reus and corpus de licti. The guilty mind, guilty action and an accuser who was harmed in violation of the penal code on a charging document with jurisdiction that appears in violation the 1st, 13th, 14th, 10th Amendment to the constitution. The critical roles of government have been usurped under the local trifecta of the District Attorney, the Coroner and the county Sheriff. The people are not represented by them only corporate actors committing fraud in all instances to serve its corporate employer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R.o.g.s. Moderated, 23 May 2019 @ 10:23pm

    Smear campaign? Check.❌
    Political targets? Check❌
    Vengeful gang of cops? Check.❌
    Strange, blatant unconstitutional violations? Check.❌
    Electronics? Check. ❌
    A stringer under seige by dirty cops? Check.....

    Yeah: this is a ROGS BINGO

    And, that gate is a true hero. I hope Carmody paints it blue to remind those cowards what real heroes look like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.