San Francisco has reached a $369,000 settlement with the San Francisco freelance journalist whose home and office were raided by police trying to find the confidential source of a leaked report into the death of the city’s former public defender.
Bryan Carmody filed a claim against the city and county of San Francisco last August after the widely condemned May 2019 raids in which police seized computers, cameras and phones. Five different San Francisco judges authorized the searches, despite a California shield law that specifically protects journalists from such searches.
Carmody declined comment to The Associated Press pending board approval.
“We think this proposed settlement is an appropriate resolution given all of the circumstances and the inherent cost of further litigation,” city attorney spokesman John Cote told the Examiner.
San Francisco police chief William Scott initially defended the searches, saying that Carmody had “crossed the line” and conspired with police employees to steal the report. Days later, he acknowledged the searches were probably illegal.
Mayor London Breed also defended the searches before backtracking amid growing outrage. The city’s former public defender, Jeff Adachi, had contentious relations with police and the leak of the report detailing the circumstances around his death was considered an attempt to smear Adachi’s legacy.
Carmody has worked for decades as a freelance journalist or stringer, selling video and interview footage to news outlets. He carries a press pass issued by the San Francisco Police Department and has said he did not pay for the police report, which he sold as part of a package including video and photos to media outlets.
Adachi’s family says he died of a natural heart attack. The medical examiner’s office said his death was drug-related.
San Francisco judges eventually quashed and nullified the five separate search warrants police requested to search Carmody’s home, office and phones.
The First Amendment Coalition sued Breed and city police in August after failing to get access to records about the raid. The lawsuit is pending.
David Snyder, the coalition’s executive director, said he is happy Carmody is receiving compensation, but the steps the police took to root out his source were outrageous.
“The city really overstepped its bounds,” he said. “The fact that it did so sent a chill across journalism and I think, chilled the ability of journalists to do what they do, which is to inform the public so the public can participate meaningfully in their democracy.”