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Judge unseals last warrant in raid against journalist in Adachi report case

The fifth and final search warrant used by police to monitor the phone and raid the home and office of San Francisco journalist Bryan Carmody has been unsealed, free speech advocacy group the First Amendment Coalition announced Tuesday.

On Aug. 22, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Joseph Quinn granted the FAC’s motion to unseal and quash the final warrant, making all five warrants, which judges had previously sealed, void and part of the public record.

Police had sought the warrants in order to monitor Carmody’s cellphone and conduct a May 10 search at his home and office as they investigated a stolen police report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Carmody had somehow obtained the police report and sold it to local news outlets just hours after Adachi’s Aug. 22 death.

As each warrant has been quashed and unsealed one-by-one by five different judges over the last two months, Carmody’s attorneys have maintained that police violated California’s Shield Law, which protects journalists from being forced to reveal their sources and hand over any unpublished material to law enforcement.

They’ve also maintained that the unsealed documents show that judges and police had evidence that Carmody was a journalist and, therefore, should’ve known the search was illegal.

FAC Executive Director David Snyder said in a statement:

“We are grateful that Judge Quinn, like four judges before him, finally recognized the serious constitutional violations here — and that he recognized the public’s right to know what police told him before he approved the search warrant.”

“However, none of this should have happened in the first place. Police should have never sought this warrant, Quinn should have never approved it, and FAC should not have had to file a motion to unseal materials that California law makes clear should have been public many, many weeks ago.” 

Snyder alleged that the fact police didn’t include key information about Carmody’s profession in their warrant applications and that judges were told that Carmody sells stories to new outlets, “show failings at multiple levels.”

Ching Wong/SFBay San Francisco Mayor London Breed walks off the stage after her remark during a memorial service for Public Defender Jeff Adachi at City Hall in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, March 4, 2019. (Ching Wong/SFBay)

Snyder added:

“The Bryan Carmody saga is a stain on San Francisco history that can’t be erased by a few court rulings.”

Police Chief William Scott has admitted that searching Carmody’s property may have been unlawful and said an outside agency would be taking over the police department’s criminal investigation into the leaked police report.

Nonetheless, the FAC last week filed a lawsuit against both the police department and Mayor London Breed, alleging that both Breed’s office and police have refused to release public records related to the investigation into freelance journalist Bryan Carmody. The suit is seeking to force police and the mayor’s office to comply with the public records act and sunshine ordinance.

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