In the land of the free, journalists are raided by SWAT teams in an effort to find out their sources in spite of the constitution protecting journalists from this very act. Freelance journalist Bryan Carmody fell victim to the police state in California last year as multiple San Francisco cops with sledge hammers and weapons began breaking down his door in an effort to find out his source for a leaked police report. The entire raid was illegal from the get go, and now, we have found that orders came from the top instructing officers to hide the actions of the illegal raid by not wearing body cameras.
The Reporters Committee, which was created in 1970 to fight the very illegal act Carmody was raided over, submitted a public records request and obtained a memo with the subject "BWC usage" in regard to the unlawful raid on the journalist.
BWC stands for body-worn camera. In the short two-page memo, Lieutenant Pilar Torres states that he told law enforcement officers conducting the raid “not to utilize our Department issued BWC’s for this operation” because the video footage could compromise the “confidential investigation.”
“Body-worn cameras are designed to increase police transparency and accountability,” said Katie Townsend, legal director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “The fact that officers were instructed not to use their bodycams during an illegal raid of a journalist’s home is deeply troubling.”
We agree, and when we look into the specifics of the case and find out that all the warrants issued were illegal, a troubling picture of police retaliation against journalists who embarrass them comes to light.
Over the past year, Carmody's case received much deserved attention and and the police department came under heavy scrutiny. After the raid, Carmody filed a lawsuit to go after the tyrants who did this to him. In April, the city of San Francisco announced they will be paying $369,000 to settle claims over its police raid on Carmody's house last May.
As the Society for Professional Journalists points out, California’s Shield Law protects journalists from being held in contempt for refusing to disclose their sources’ identities and other unpublished/unaired information obtained during the news gathering process (California Constitution, Article I, § 2(b); California Evidence Code § 1070(a)). California Penal Code section 1524(g) provides that “no warrant shall issue” for any item protected by the Shield Law.
Despite this protection under the law, police still raided Carmody's home.
According to a report from NPR at the time:
The raids on Carmody's home and office are the latest in a series of events concerning the death of San Francisco public defender Jeff Adachi in February, at age 59.
Within hours of Adachi's collapsing in a San Franscisco apartment, details from a leaked police investigation into his death were already showing up in news reports, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A number of the details in the police report were salacious, suggesting that perhaps one or more members of the police department were trying to tarnish the reputation of Adachi, who was known as a police watchdog and fierce advocate for criminal justice reform. In San Francisco, a public defender is an elected position.
After Carmody sold the report to several outlets, it showed up everywhere and this likely infuriated the police department.
"There were leaks happening all over the place," Carmody recalled to the Los Angeles Times.
Due to the nature of the report painting police in a negative light and hurting their image, the raid could've been retaliatory in nature. Indeed, since it was in direct violation of California law, it appears as such.
After the raid was investigated, the five warrants that authorized the searches were deemed illegal and quashed last summer by the same five judges who initially approved them.
Unsealed warrant applications show police did not inform judges that Carmody had a valid press pass issued by the San Francisco Police Department, reported Courthouse News.
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“The city egregiously overstepped its bounds, and the search warrants served on Bryan were unlawful,” David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition said. “They were in violation of California’s journalist shield law so I’m happy to see that Bryan is going to get some compensation for that.”
As TFTP reported at the time, according to Carmody, before the raid, two cops came to his home to demand he tell them the source of his report. However, knowing full well that he did not have to, Carmody politely refused. Two weeks later, a SWAT team of cops showed up.
Carmody recalls the officers showing up to his home, who began smashing in his door with a sledge hammer and a battering ram, without knocking. To avoid having the front of his home demolished by the raid, Carmody opened the door.
“I don’t think it was right to break my door down,” he said in an interview. “I’m one of the original independent media companies in San Francisco. This is outrageous.”
When the police came into his home, they kidnapped Carmody for over six hours, holding him in handcuffs.
"I'm smart enough not to talk to federal agents, ever," Carmody told The Washington Post. "I just kept saying 'lawyer, lawyer, lawyer.'"
While they held Carmody captive, the officers tore his home apart, confiscating all of his computers and equipment.
"It's designed to intimidate," Carmody's lawyer, Thomas Burke, told The Associated Press. "It's essentially the confiscation of a newsroom."
Naturally, the police stood by the Stasi-style raid of a journalist's home, and referred to Carmody's detainment and theft of his equipment as part of an "investigation."
David Stevenson, a spokesman for the San Francisco police, told the Chronicle last year that the "search warrant executed today was granted by a judge and conducted as part of a criminal investigation into the leak of the Adachi police report." He called it "one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of a confidential police report."
However, as stated above, this alleged "investigation" was completely illegal.
As NPR notes, Burke said that normally journalists would receive a subpoena, and then get a lawyer to ensure the proper protections. "So much information has nothing to do with the purpose of their investigation," he said. "If you are looking for one piece of information, that's why you issue a subpoena."
But this did not happen and instead, police carried out an extremely disturbing raid on a journalist.
Luckily, because Carmody had committed no crime, he was eventually released, but not before the cops took the report, stole his property, and damaged his home. This is what journalism looks like in 2019..
Despite the illegal nature of the entire raid on this journalist's home, none of the officers or officials involved in it were held accountable for their actions. Instead, it was the taxpayers of San Francisco who paid up.