The following is a statement by First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder:
The search warrant application unsealed today shows, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the San Francisco Police Department knew Bryan Carmody is a journalist before they sought a search warrant for his office — and that they provided ample evidence of that fact to the San Francisco judge that authorized the unlawful search of his office.
California law could not be more clear that search warrants may not be used to seize a journalist’s unpublished materials. And yet the police department sought a warrant for Carmody’s home, office and phones to seize exactly the materials California law says they are not entitled to. Beyond that, and perhaps even more troubling, the judge issuing the search warrant authorized it despite clear evidence of Bryan Carmody’s profession.
The affidavit presented to San Francisco Superior Court Judge Victor Hwang on May 10 specifically states that Carmody told police investigators that he “profits financially from every story he covers,” and that police knew that Carmody is a “stringer,” i.e. a freelancer. The affidavit itself even states that Carmody is someone “who makes a career out of producing/selling hot news stories.”
Taken together, these statements represent a massive failure by both SFPD and the judiciary to recognize and safeguard the Constitutionally protected rights of Bryan Carmody and, by extension all journalists.
It is wholly unacceptable that no one within the police department or the city’s political leadership put a stop to this egregiously overbroad and overaggressive investigation before it got to the point of seeking plainly unlawful warrants. But the system’s failure does not stop there. Judge Hwang had ample evidence that police wanted to do something California law says they cannot do — use a search warrant to seize a journalist’s unpublished notes and materials.
The newly unsealed search warrant application and Judge Hwang’s order granting FAC’s motion to unseal can be found here.
More on our efforts to get these records unsealed can be found here.
For more information:
First Amendment Coalition