Three judges quashed and unsealed three different San Francisco Police Department search warrants Friday issued for journalist Bryan Carmody’s phone, home and office in connection to a stolen police report in the death of public defender Jeff Adachi.
Attorneys for Carmody have been working to quash a total of five search warrants — three for his personal phone, one for his home and one for his office — that culminated in a May 10 raid at his home and office.
Police said they were investigating Carmody following the theft of an unreleased police report on Adachi’s death that was sold to Bay Area news organizations by Carmody.
Carmody has said that during the raid, officers handcuffed him for nearly six hours as they seized several laptops, cameras and other items, and they tried to get him to reveal his source for the report.
Superior Court Judges Gail Dekreon, Christopher Hite and Victor Hwang all decided that warrants to search Carmody’s home, phone and office respectively were invalid because of Carmody’s career as a journalist.
According to a previous warrant unsealed by Superior Court Judge Rochelle East, police did not explicitly tell the judge that Carmody was a journalist, instead referring to him as a “Freelance Videographer/Communications Manager, USO Bay Area.” Dekreon also said Friday that she was not told Carmody had a current San Francisco press pass.
Under California Shield Law, journalists are protected from having to reveal sources or hand unpublished material over to law enforcement. Thomas Burke, an attorney for Carmody, said that having the warrants quashed is very satisfying and that they are important rulings to make it clear that issuance of warrants against journalists should not happen.
“It means that the judges who were tasked to issue warrants did not know the full story, that the Police Department didn’t tell them that Mr. Carmody had a current San Francisco press pass,” he said. “And that shouldn’t have happened.”
As a result of the quashings, all evidence collected under the use of the invalid search warrants has been ordered to be destroyed or returned to Carmody. As of the third hearing Friday, the only property that had not been returned to Carmody was the police report.
While each judge decided to quash and unseal the warrants, it is unclear how much of each unsealed warrant will be redacted once it is released. The warrant earlier unsealed by East notably redacted a paragraph describing a confidential informant.
It is unclear if the same paragraph appears in the three warrants unsealed Friday, but each judge has decided to redact varying amounts of
Hwang’s sealing appeared the narrowest, with him redacting only names of witnesses and identifying information such as addresses and phone numbers. Dekreon suggested there may be redactions beyond those pieces of information, mentioning redactions on several pages of the warrant.
Duffy Carolan, an attorney representing the First Amendment Coalition in the motions to unseal the warrants, said that the unsealings are good news, although overdue. She said that the public is now going to be able to hold the San Francisco Police Department accountable for its actions.
The hearing on the fifth and final warrant on Carmody’s phone is set for Aug. 16.