Courtesy of Bryan Carmody

Judge quashes warrant to search SF journalist’s phone records

Police raids on the home and office of freelancer Bryan Carmody drew national attention

A judge has rescinded a search warrant that police obtained for the phone records of a freelance journalist during an investigation into a leaked incident report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, according to an attorney.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Rochelle East quashed the warrant on Thursday after attorneys for videographer Bryan Carmody argued that it violated laws protecting journalists and their sources.

Thomas Burke, an attorney for Carmody, said the warrant was the first of five that the San Francisco Police Department obtained against Carmody amid political pressure to find the source of the leaked police report.

Police raided Carmody’s home and office in May. The searches spurred outrage from First Amendment advocates who viewed them as violations of press freedoms.

East signed the warrant for police to access Carmody’s call detail records, text message usage and other information for a 26-hour period in February, when Adachi died. Police executed the warrant March 1.

First Amendment advocates questioned whether police told the judges who signed them that Carmody was a journalist protected against search warrants by laws including the California Shield Law.

Burke said East indicated that the warrant should not have been issued in the first place

“She said that there was no question that he was a journalist protected by the Shield Law,” Burke said. “It was implied that she was not aware that he had a San Francisco press pass at the time that search warrant was issued.”

East also ruled that the application police filed for the warrant would be unsealed except for one paragraph that includes information on a confidential source, according to Burke.

Burke said that affidavit is expected to be released Tuesday.

The other warrants remain intact.

S.F. Examiner Staff Writer Laura Waxmann contributed to this report.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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