I-Team questions police chief about raid on journalist's home, Jeff Adachi investigation

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Police Department is returning a journalist's equipment and notes, 11 days after a controversial raid at his home and office. It was part of a police investigation into who leaked a confidential report on the death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi.



This story has made national headlines; freedom of the press advocates say the SFPD broke state and federal law going after a journalist's sources by raiding his home and office.

EXCLUSIVE: Key witness in death investigation of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi speaks to I-Team

Bryan Carmody released new surveillance video from May 10th of San Francisco police officers trying in vain to open the gate at his home with a crowbar and sledgehammer. After he heard the commotion, he let them in. They placed him in handcuffs for hours and confiscated his cameras, computers, cell phones and notes. Our camera was there when officers wheeled the gear from his office.

"They confiscated his newsroom," Carmody's attorney, Thomas Burke, told reporters after the court hearing Tuesday. "All of you who do reporting have all kinds of stories on both your cell phones, you have leads, you have all kinds of things in your computers, your laptops, all of it, that was all gone."

Carmody has had an SFPD press pass for 16 years; he's a freelance journalist or "stringer" as they're called. He shoots video, conducts interviews, gathers documents, and sells the package to various media outlets including ABC7. He shot video of a natural gas line explosion in February and appeared on the air himself.

It was a similar situation later that month. San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi died in this North Beach apartment. Carmody shot video, obtained a police report with pictures of the scene, and sold them to ABC7 and other stations. In March, the Medical Examiner concluded Adachi died from a toxic mix of cocaine and alcohol.

RELATED: ABC7 obtains San Francisco police report on death of Public Defender Jeff Adachi

In April, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors held a hearing about the release of that police report, wondering if someone leaked it because Adachi was a long-time critic of the department.

San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen said, "To have that type of maligning going on of a public official in San Francisco is disgusting."

They called for a full investigation and heard from Adachi's widow, Mutsuko Adachi.

"It was despicable what the police department did to myself and my daughter by releasing the police report."

Three weeks later, officers were banging on Carmody's door. His attorney filed a motion to have the search warrants revoked. On Tuesday, the judge set a new hearing date for June, and the SFPD attorney announced they are returning all of Carmody's materials.

Dan Noyes: "Is that a victory for you that they are giving back the equipment?"
Thomas Burke: "I think it's important when you have something like this happen that you get the material back as soon as you can."

Jim Wheaton of the First Amendment Project tells the I-Team, state and federal law is simple-- the raid was illegal, and that you can never search a journalist's office or newsroom to try to get their confidential sources.

"It's really important for everybody that reporters be able to keep their confidential sources confidential," said Wheaton. "So that they have access to them, so that we can all know what's happening in the shadows."

Police department attorney Ronnie Wagner did not address the legality of the raid during today's hearing, and would not answer Dan Noyes' as he followed her down the staircase.

Dan Noyes: "Why was that search proper?"
Ronnie Wagner: "I respectfully refer you to San Francisco Police Department media relations."

Late Tuesday, Police Chief Bill Scott held a news conference.

Dan Noyes: "How can you defend a raid on a journalist's home and office?"
Chief Bill Scott, SFPD: "So, I'm not here to try to defend it, because there's a lot of information that we really have to look at and reflect."

The chief confirms the SFPD did not consult with the DA's Office on the warrant and raid, but he says police still consider Bryan Carmody as a possible co-conspirator in the theft of the Adachi police report.

Chief Bill Scott: "We believe that the line was crossed."
Dan Noyes: "How so?"
Chief Bill Scott: "We believe that the line was crossed, and the premise that we're operating under is if Mr. Carmody was complicit in being a part of the illegal taking--"
Dan Noyes: "Is there evidence of that, of him conspiring?"
Chief Bill Scott: "That's what the investigation is all about."

Both Mayor London Breed and District Attorney George Gascon have issued tweets the past two days, critical of the police raid. We'll stay with this story, as it plays out.

Take a look at for a look at more stories and videos by Dan Noyes and the ABC7 News I-Team.
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