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A series of tweets coupled with a television news report set in motion a massive investigation into a leak of police documents shortly after famed San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi died in February, according to newly-unsealed court documents released on Tuesday.
The investigation into freelance journalist Bryan Carmody started after KGO-TV (Channel 7) reporter Dan Noyes tweeted several photographs and information from law enforcement-sensitive documents as part of his ongoing reporting into Adachi’s death, a search warrant made public on Tuesday said. The tweets were used in tandem with a news report on KGO’s Saturday evening broadcast and a second report by competing outlet, FOX station KTVU (Channel 2), to build a case against Carmody that police ultimately used to seek and obtain a search warrant against the reporter.
Carmody was visited by police officers in April and his home raided by officers and federal agents in May after police identified him as the person who sold copies of the police report to Noyes and other journalists. In a conversation with the California Globe after his home was raided, Carmody said officers were trying to learn the identity of the person who gave him the report and threatened him with the possibility of a federal obstruction of justice charge if he did not cooperate.
Since his home was raided nearly two months ago, Carmody and his legal team have fought to have items seized through that raid and a similar one on his office returned, evidence obtained from various phones and other devices suppressed, and the warrants themselves unsealed.
The journalist was handed a victory in court last Thursday when one of the judges who issued a warrant against Carmody’s agreed to have the warrant tossed out and ordered police to destroy evidence obtained from it.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Rochelle East suggested the warrant should not have been obtained against Carmody because he was a journalist protected by California’s shield law. Though the warrant didn’t identify Carmody as a journalist, East said police should have known he was one because he was issued a recognizable press pass by the San Francisco Police Department among other reasons.
In a transcript I obtained late Monday evening of last Thursday's court hearing, the judge at the center of @bryanccarmody's hearing on the unsealing of the search warrant said it was clear Carmody is a journalist because @SFPD gave him a press pass. pic.twitter.com/wSJekJzCjy
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) July 23, 2019
East also ordered police to unseal the search warrant and make it public on Tuesday. The judge ordered one section of the warrant redacted because it identified a police informant in the case, according to a transcript of the court hearing obtained by California Globe.
Carmody, who declined to comment when reached via Twitter, posted a link to the unsealed warrant Tuesday morning. The document did not identify him as a journalist, but an officer who wrote an affidavit attached to an application for the warrant said a review of Carmody’s LinkedIn profile showed he was a “freelance videographer” and “communications manager.”
The affidavit said the leaked report was likely given to Noyes after Carmody obtained it, and that Carmody received it from a San Francisco police officer who stole it.
The search warrant unsealed on Tuesday related to a single phone on Verizon’s network that police said Carmody likely used to communicate with his source within the San Francisco Police Department. It did not identify the name of the officer or officers believed to have leaked the report to Carmody.
The affidavit said additional search warrants were likely coming as the investigation proceeded. Additional warrants were obtained, including two against Carmody’s home and office in May. The warrant unsealed on Tuesday did not cover items taken during the raid. People familiar with Carmody’s legal situation said hearings on those warrants are expected to take place multiple times over the course of the next several weeks.