San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón condemned a recent police raid on a journalist’s home in the city, saying he “can’t imagine a situation in which a search warrant would be appropriate.”
The DA’s tweets came 10 days after San Francisco police raided a freelance video reporter’s home after he gave local television stations a copy of a police report into the sudden death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi earlier this year.
Police executed a warrant on the home and office of videographer Bryan Carmody, seizing his computers, cell phones and other devices, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The raid came after police asked Carmody for his source on the police report on Adachi and he declined to provide it.
In the raid, officers beat on the outer gate of Carmody’s home with a sledgehammer, then handcuffed him once he opened it and entered his house to seize his items.
Gascón said his office had not seen the warrant, and that it would only be appropriate if a journalist had broken the law to get the information that was leaked. He compared the “confidences” that journalists owe to their sources to the concept of attorney-client privilege.
“Seizing the entire haystack to find the needle risks violating the confidences Mr. Carmody owes to all his sources, not just the person who leaked the police report,” Gascón tweeted.
Local media and freedom of the press groups have condemned the raid, with the Chronicle’s editorial board calling it “disturbing.”
“Barring some suspicion that Carmody committed an offense other than journalism, the police might as well have taken their sledgehammer to the United States Constitution,” the board wrote last week.
First Amendment rights group Press Freedom Defense Fund expressed its support for the reporter last week, calling out the police department’s “outrageous and unconstitutional conduct designed to compel him to disclose the identity of a confidential source.”
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Sunday she was “not okay with police raids on reporters,” after initially saying last week that she supported the judges’ decision to issue warrants allowing a search.
In a series of tweets Sunday, the mayor appeared to walk back her initial position, saying that she “[has] to believe” the judges’ decision was “legal and warranted,” but adding that “the more we learn the less appropriate it looks to me.”
The 59-year-old Adachi, an elected official, died on Feb. 22 after spending much of the day with a woman who was not his wife. His death was ruled accidental, with the San Francisco medical examiner saying it was caused by “acute mixed drug toxicity with cocaine and ethanol, with hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease as a contributing factor.”