A freelance journalist in San Francisco whose home and office was raided by police earlier this month after he said he refused to give up a confidential source is now under investigation as a “possible co-conspirator” in an alleged criminal conspiracy to steal a confidential police report, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott announced Tuesday.
The police department has been under fire ever since the May 10 raid on the home and office of Bryan Carmody, who was accused of leaking a confidential police report on the death of public defender Jeff Adachi. The raid sparked outrage over what many saw as police infringing on press freedom and shield laws meant to protect journalists from being forced to reveal their sources.
But at a press conference late Tuesday, Scott said investigators believe Carmody did more than just receive confidential information from inside the department.
“We believe the line was crossed,” Scott said, describing Carmody as an “active participant” in a scheme to leak details about Adachi’s death. “We believe he took part in this act.”
While Scott said an ongoing investigation is underway focusing on employees of the San Francisco police department, he said Carmody is a “secondary focus” in the probe. Investigators view the journalist as a “possible co-conspirator … rather than a passive recipient” in a “criminal conspiracy.”
Police are probing whether “SFPD employees conspired with Mr. Carmody to steal the confidential report and financially profit from it,” Scott said.
Scott also appeared to suggest Carmody may have sought to smear Adachi, alleging that he had expressed “disdain” for the public defender in an interview.
Adachi, 59, collapsed at a woman’s apartment on Feb. 22 and later died, reportedly from a mixture of cocaine and alcohol. Many in the community saw the leak of details about his death as an attempt to smear him, as he was known for trying to trial down on police misconduct.
Scott said the ongoing investigation involves both misdemeanor and felony charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, theft of a police report, receiving stolen property, the unlawful dissemination of official information, and the willful obstruction of justice.
“We do believe Mr. Carmody committed a crime, and that’s what we’ve been investigating,” Scott said.
Scott also told reporters the department recognized that the raid “looks bad” but said officials believed the reporter had committed a crime. “We would never intentionally violate anyone’s rights,” he said.
Scott did not provide or describe any evidence that Carmody may have had a hand in stealing the police report from within the department.
The raid on Carmody’s home earlier this month resulted in much of his electronics being seized but police later agreed to return the items to him.