SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Officials with the First Amendment Coalition said on Tuesday that unsealed search warrants used by police to search the office and home of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody showed a “massive failure” on behalf of police and the city’s judicial system.

The warrants, used to monitor Carmody’s phone and search his home and office, were unsealed Tuesday after three separate judges ruled last week to quash and unseal them.

Police had obtained the warrants as they investigated the alleged theft of a police report regarding the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi. Carmody somehow obtained the report and sold it to three Bay Area news outlets hours after Adachi’s Feb. 22 death.

In the unsealed, redacted affidavit for the May 10 search of Carmody’s office, signed by Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang, Sgt. Joseph Obidi described Carmody’s occupation as a “freelance
videographer/communications manager.”

Also, during an interview with Carmody on April 12 in which Obidi and a police lieutenant sought to have Carmody reveal his source, Carmody reportedly said, “I’ve been doing this for thirty years and this never happened before.” Carmody also admitted to them “he profits financially from every story he covers,” according to the document.

Carmody, his attorneys and the FAC have maintained that by searching Carmody’s home and office, police violated the California Shield Law, which protects journalists from revealing sources and handing over unpublished material to law enforcement.

“The police department sought a warrant for Carmody’s home, office and phones to seize exactly the materials the California (shield) law says they are not entitled to,” David Snyder, the FAC’s executive director, said in a statement Tuesday. “Even more troubling, the judge issuing the search warrant authorized it despite clear evidence of Bryan Carmody’s profession.”

Snyder said the evidence of his profession in the affidavit shows “a massive failure by both SFPD and the judiciary to recognize and safeguard the constitutionally protected rights of Bryan Carmody and, by extension all journalists.”

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In addition to unsealing the three warrants, the judges also ruled last week to quash the warrants, meaning all evidence collected under the warrants can’t be used against Carmody.

A different March 1 warrant police obtained to monitor Carmody’s phone was already ordered unsealed and quashed last month. A hearing for the fifth and final warrant on Carmody’s phone is set for Aug. 16.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott initially maintained that because of the warrants the searches of Carmody’s home, office and phone were legal. Scott has since expressed concern about their legality. He also said an outside agency would be taking over the Police Department’s criminal investigation into the leaked police report.

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