San Francisco's criminal investigation of a journalist for 'conspiracy' is a shocking attack on press freedom

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San Francisco police raiding journalist Bryan Carmody's home earlier this month. 

The San Francisco Police Chief announced yesterday, May 21, that freelance journalist Bryan Carmody — who had his home raided as part of a police investigation into a confidential source — is the subject of a criminal investigation.

In a shocking press freedom violation two weeks ago, San Francisco police invaded Carmody’s home with their guns drawn, seized his reporting materials and equipment worth thousands of dollars, and handcuffed him for over six hours. The warrant police received from a judge to conduct the raid most likely violated California’s journalist shield law, and the city has so far provided no justification for why they ignored the binding statute’s clear language.

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While providing zero evidence that his actions went beyond constitutionally protected newsgathering activities, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said yesterday that Carmody is being investigated as a potential ‘co-conspirator’ in the leak of a police report about the late public defender Jeff Adachi’s death earlier this year.

Freedom of the Press Foundation Executive Director Trevor Timm issued the following statement:

It was already appalling that the San Francisco police raided a journalist’s home and confiscated his belongings in violation of the law. Investigating Carmody directly for criminal charges for merely obtaining a leaked document is beyond the pale, and it strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. These actions constitute a huge abuse of power, and it’s especially ironic that civil liberties advocates’ worst fears about press freedom during the Trump administration are coming to fruition in San Francisco. Reporters like Bryan Carmody have a responsibility to gather news and protect confidential sources — that isn’t a ‘conspiracy.’ That’s journalism.

Freedom of the Press Foundation will have more on this story as it develops.

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