Judge orders Bryan Carmody warrant unsealed

Superior Court Judge Rochelle East on July 18 quashed a warrant issued March 1 that targeted freelance videographer Bryan Carmody’s cellphone data. The judge said the San Francisco Police Department failed to disclose that Carmody was a credentialed Bay Area journalist and protected by the Shield Law provisions of the California Constitution. The law protects journalists who refuse to identify a confidential source from having search warrants issued against them. The warrant was unsealed on July 23.

The warrant, involving a leaked incident report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, was the first of five that police executed against Carmody, who obtained the Adachi report and sold it to news outlets, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

“Police raided Carmody’s home and office on May 10 and used a sledgehammer to try to break down his home’s front gate before handcuffing him and seizing property,” the San Francisco Chronicle’s article explained. “The raid drew condemnation from First Amendment groups who saw the action as an alarming overstep and blatant violation of the shield law.”|

Thomas Burke, a First Amendment and media attorney representing Carmody, told 48Hills he did not blame the judge for not knowing a freelance videographer might be a freelance journalist.

“I don’t blame the courts. I blame the officers seeking the warrants,” Burke said. “She was clear in the hearing (last week) she did not know him to be a journalist.”

The judge’s order resulted from a motion filed by the First Amendment Coalition along with the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal Chapter and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.