City officials are closing in on who leaked a police report to the press on the death of the late Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
A Board of Supervisors committee hearing Thursday revealed new details about the disclosure, including that a freelance reporter allegedly sold the document to some media outlets for $2,500 each within hours of his death.
The report included salacious details about his death and pictures of the unkempt bed where paramedics found him in a Telegraph Hill apartment.
His supporters viewed the leak as political retribution for his storied career of exposing misconduct within the San Francisco Police Department.
Hadi Razzaq, who runs the Public Defender’s Office’s Investigations Unit, said a KRON 4 news reporter told an investigator Feb. 24 that the “stringer” had offered to sell her the report. The reporter was standing outside the Telegraph Hill apartment where Adachi died and believed the investigator lived nearby.
“If it is true that this report was actually sold, that raises significant ethical concerns… and a betrayal of the public’s trust,” Razzaq said.
The San Francisco Examiner obtained the police report after Adachi’s death but did not pay for it.
Razzaq did not know the name of the stringer or where the stringer might have obtained the police report from. He said he passed on the name of the KRON 4 reporter to police.
Police have opened both criminal and administrative Internal Affairs investigations into the leak. Police brass at the hearing declined to comment on the details of the investigations but said they are ongoing.
At the hearing, Adachi’s widow called the disclosure “despicable” and police also apologized for the leak.
“It is incredibly painful to have the Police Department do this to you,” Mutsuko Adachi said. “It was all over the news, we had no privacy.”
Cmdr. Greg McEachern apologized to the family on behalf of himself and Chief Bill Scott.
“They deserve an apology and I am offering it today,” McEachern said.
McEachern said the leak appeared to violate department policy. An officer could face suspension or termination for such a violation.
McEachern made his comments after supervisors Sandra Fewer and Hillary Ronen criticized the leak as eroding the public’s trust.
“I am extremely concerned about whether laws were broken in the process of the leak,” Fewer said. “It was shocking, the ease and speed that this police report on an active death investigation was released to the press.”
Ronen said the disclosure moved the SFPD backward in its efforts to implement police reform.
“To have that type of maligning going on of a public official in San Francisco is disgusting and we want answers, we want a full investigation and we want accountability,” Ronen said.
Fewer had called for the hearing over concerns about the leak. She vowed to have police return to update the public on the results of the investigations.
Editors note: This story has been updated to correct the date when the public defender’s office learned of allegations that the police report was being sold to media outlets.