A freelance journalist with connections to several San Francisco news outlets claimed his home was raided by local and federal law enforcement agents early Friday morning in connection to the leak of sensitive police records related to the death of former public defender Jeff Adachi.
In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner published late Friday evening, Bryan Carmody claimed agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation executed a search warrant on his home early Friday morning and confiscated several electronic devices, including cellphones and computers.
A search warrant was also executed on Carmody’s office where police located a copy of an investigatory report connected to Adachi’s death, Carmody said.
Adachi was found dead in mid-February after having dinner with a friend, police said. The county coroner determined Adachi died from a mixture of cocaine and ethanol ingestion, according to a medical report recently released.
Shortly after his death, the San Francisco Police Department launched an investigation. Within days, sensitive investigatory records — including crime scene photographs — were published by a number of television news stations, including ABC station KGO-TV.
Dan Noyes, the investigative reporter who aired numerous reports based on the investigative material, pledged not to reveal the identity of his source. But an investigator with the public defender’s office revealed last month that an unidentified news stringer was shopping copies of the report to various news outlets, including an unnamed KRON-TV reporter who complained her station could not afford the staggering $2,500 price tag.
In a telephone interview with California Brief late Friday evening, Carmody acknowledged he was the stringer who was selling copies of the report and associated photographs as part of a news package solicited to Bay Area outlets. Carmody, whose 30-year career includes producing news for CNN, MSNBC, CBS News and other local and national news stations, said accusations that he was “running around town selling copies of the report is not accurate” and that the actual price demanded for his news package containing the sensitive Adachi death documents was “way, way less” than the $2,500 investigators claimed.
Carmody said he learned he was being investigated after officers from the San Francisco Police Department interviewed him at his home two weeks ago. The reporter said the conversation was largely cordial except for a moment when officers suggested he could face a federal grand jury subpoena for not revealing the original source of the documents.
In California, reporters cannot be held in contempt of a police investigation for refusing to disclose their sources. That provision, known as a shield law, covers reporters who work in the state from law enforcement investigations unless a separate crime is committed. But there is no similar shield law at the federal level, which means reporters and their sources generally do not have the same protections in federal criminal investigations.
Carmody said the search warrant executed on his home was signed by a state judge. He declined to produce copies of the search warrant when asked by California Globe, saying his lawyers had not had a chance to review it.
On Friday, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department told the San Francisco Examiner it stood by a decision to search Carmody’s home, saying the action was “one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of a confidential police report.”
Carmody said police entered his home around 8:30 a.m., placed him in handcuffs then entered every room of his home with their firearms drawn. They went through numerous notebooks page by page, he said, and ultimately wound up seizing around 15 computers from his home and office.
Police also seized numerous tablets and Carmody’s primary cellphone, he said. He was able to obtain a new cellphone on Friday, but the seizure of key computer equipment meant his news gathering business has been suspended indefinitely.
“They probably took $20,000, maybe $30,000 worth of equipment from me,” Carmody told the California Globe. “God knows when I’ll get it back.”
When asked if he felt his source would be compromised by the investigation, Carmody said he was confident police would not be able to learn who his source who provided him with the Adachi records would be revealed because he did not preserve that information on any of the equipment that was taken by police on Friday.
“There’s nothing in the material that they took to identify anybody,” Carmody said. “I didn’t memorialize any conversations or anything.”