Bryan Carmody is led off in handcuffs in his surveillance footage from May's raid.

Both the criminal and administrative investigations regarding the cops who improperly leaked a police report detailing the death of public defender Jeff Adachi to a freelance journalist are at a standstill and have likely been irreparably damaged. That became clear following today’s release of the affidavit police presented to Judge Victor Hwang in May before he approved a raid on the office of cameraman Bryan Carmody, who flogged that police report to multiple TV stations.

In this affidavit, unlike others unsealed in the recent past, the San Francisco Police Department didn’t obfuscate to the same degree regarding Carmody’s status as a journalist — a status that, under state law, should have protected him from a raid meant to unearth his confidential sources. While other judges granting since-rescinded warrants could have discovered Carmody’s profession with a simple Google search, the materials put before Hwang noted that Carmody made his living “producing/selling hot news stories,” that he “profits financially from every story that he covers” and that he is a “stringer,” a freelance journalist.

More so than his judicial colleagues, Hwang was given “ample facts” to realize Carmody was a journalist, in the words of David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.

Mission Local reported back in May that the judges in question were not ignorant of Carmody’s profession — though they may well have been ignorant of the law.

But the affidavit released today reveals more.

It reveals that the SFPD had zeroed in on two police officers it suspected of assisting Carmody by removing a copy of the Adachi report from Central Station. The affidavit penned by Sgt. Joseph Obidi notes that he obtained a warrant for Carmody’s phone records, and found calls to these two officers at exactly the times one would expect if they were working with him to leak the report. Video footage revealed one of the officers visiting the station — when he was not responding to any calls or doing any ostensible police work. Obidi suspects he was there for the express purpose of palming the report.

In today’s unsealed document, Obidi further reveals that on March 6 he obtained warrants for those two cops’ phone records, confirming their communications with Carmody.

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It is not yet known if those warrants have been thrown out, but they all but certainly will be. The initial warrant on Carmody’s phone records has been — and that pulls the rug out from under everything. Every investigatory step and subsequent warrant ostensibly stemmed from this misbegotten and since-rescinded warrant on Carmody’s phone.

Both the criminal and administrative investigation would appear to be back at square one. And, in the meantime, the city and its police department have been given a self-inflicted black eye.

And now? Things get worse.

Jeff Adachi, 1959-2019. Photo by Joe Eskenazi

Jeff Adachi died on Feb. 22 of lethal arrhythmia. His subsequent autopsy and other investigations revealed he had trace amounts of cocaine in his system — but, more significantly, he had advanced heart disease, an unhealthy lifestyle, and sorely neglected his own health and well-being.

Adachi was a longtime adversary of the police department and, within hours of his demise, the police report documenting his final hours was improperly leaked to Carmody, who sold it to at least three television stations. The lurid details within this report were media catnip: Adachi died in the company of a mysterious woman in a ritzy pied-à-terre; photos of the sheetless bed and liquor bottles were soon splayed across the airwaves.

In May, police forcibly entered Carmody’s Richmond District home and office. Mayor London Breed and Chief Bill Scott both initially defended the raid, as a means of ferreting out Carmody’s SFPD sources and an investigation of him as an alleged “co-conspirator” in a crime. Both, however, soon backtracked in the face of a firestorm of criticism from First Amendment advocates and others pointing out that such a move clearly contravened state laws and violated the notion of a free press.

The affidavits justifying the phone tap and raids have, one after the other, been unsealed and rescinded, each more damning than the last. So, now it’s time to assess where things are.

And, while nobody could quite plan things out this way, things certainly have worked out well for the people involved in leaking the Adachi report.

Once the document was placed in Carmody’s hands, it was expediently transferred to the outfits that paid for it — and then re-reported by the oufits that didn’t. If the intention was to inflict heavy reputational damage on Adachi, that certainly happened.

Then, the investigation was handled so spectacularly poorly that it’s highly questionable whether anyone will be held accountable — the misbegotten warrant for Carmody’s phone records at the onset has likely undone everything that came thereafter. (This was, incidentally, an Internal Affairs investigation, meaning the SFPD is in the surreal position of now requiring an internal investigation of its internal investigators).

The heavy-handed and illegal raid rendered Carmody a First Amendment hero and martyr, and conferred upon him a degree of legitimacy and gravitas that would have, otherwise, been unobtainable. The only remaining question is not if he’ll receive a handsome settlement but how much — and if, perchance, it’ll be more than the $400,000 the city disgorged to Mario Woods’ aggrieved mother.

Finally, Scott — the Los Angeles import long suspected and despised by the department’s homegrown, old-school, Adachi-hating old guard — had been tarnished. Scott’s right-hand man, Assistant Chief Hector Sainez — who purportedly played a heavy role in this investigation — abruptly retired in late May. Acting Capt. Bill Braconi, the internal affairs head, also retired. As did Mike Connolly, the department’s former chief of investigations.

Scott had hoped to farm out the investigation into this sordid mess to an outside agency. None has materialized and, with the situation in shambles, it’s not clear one will.

The buck stops with the chief, who has been left holding the bag.

It’s a bad look for him. And this city.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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26 Comments

  1. Joe,

    You are the number one person in the local media community keeping the
    smear on Jeff alive.

    You give all this crap about him …

    but, more significantly, he had advanced heart disease, an unhealthy lifestyle, and sorely neglected his own health and well-being.

    I knew him well and you did not.

    He worked out every morning and was in great shape.

    I’m ashamed of your work.

    Go giants!

    h.

    1. H. — 

      Jeff had a 70 percent blockage in his left anterior descending artery. He wasn’t taking any heart medications. He worked 18 hours a day. He ate poorly.

      That’s an unhealthy lifestyle. That’s neglect of his own well-being. And that’s a damn shame, but them’s the facts.

      Love ya, H. You’re a smart guy, but this isn’t smart. You don’t know what you don’t know.

      Best,

      JE

  2. Joe,

    Your program erased my reply to you because I did not sign it first.

    Basically it said that our bottom line difference is that you accept the
    lab report from the guy Adachi was trying to get fired.

    I do not.

    You haven’t even mentioned that the guy had a motive to smear Jeff.

    Why’s that?

    He suddenly got a million dollar contract in a nearby municipality.

    Why didn’t you report that?

    I admire your work buy you’re on the wrong side here.

    Jeff died February 22nd and you’re still smearing him.

    Why?

    Go Giants!

    h.

    1. H. — 

      Gonna have to reiterate in public what I told you in private:

      While Adachi tried to get Dr. Wirowek fired, the autopsy was performed by Dr. Moffat with a Dr. Hunter present in addition to a forensic tech. What’s more, the toxicology report was signed by an Eric Ingle and Sue Pearring.

      Reasonable people can question why the medical examiner put drug-use as the No. 1 cause of death for Jeff — and not his physical condition and obviously debilitated heart. Some of his colleagues do wonder about this.

      But your implication that the autopsy and/or toxicology report was *faked* would require a conspiracy of the above six people. That’s baseless and silly.

      I told you this before but you have forgotten or failed to listen. Remember and listen this time, and conspiracy theory-monger elsewhere.

      Also, your comment *does* appear on our site, so you’re wrong about that, too.

      Yours,

      JE

          1. H. — 

            Jeff is missed. You should defend him without espousing bizarre and delusional conspiracy theories, which is not a good look for anyone.

            There’s no need for any more conspiracy theory-mongering on this website.

            Best,

            JE

  3. Is it a coincidence that Sandy Fewer’s immediate statement about Carmody profiting illegally from a theft is almost exactly what is in the affidavit? Sandy constantly mentions her husband is a retired SFPD officer. Of course, immediately after the outcry, Sandy walked back her statement.

    Also, David Stevenson figures prominently in the warrant deception. He was the source of Carmody’s involvement. Stevenson certainly knew that Carmody has a SFPD press credential because Stevenson had previously worked for a local TV station and had gotten items from Carmody. It looks like Stevenson withheld that from Obidi. It was reported elsewhere that Carmody’s association with conservative media made him disliked among some local media people, presumably including Stevenson.

    1. Sir or madam —

      I think Fewer’s statement isn’t a coincidence, but I don’t see a smoking gun here. Without an understanding of how shield law works, this *does* look like profiting off stolen materials. And that’s pretty much how the SFPD approached it.

      If memory serves, Fewer didn’t seem to understand that journalists are not legally culpable for receiving “illegally” leaked items. That’s what she walked back.

      I have no idea what relationship, if any, Stevenson had with Carmody. I don’t think on-camera TV journalists are the ones forking over money for footage, however.

      Carmody’s identity as the man selling the police report was known by journalists and police by April at the very latest. Perhaps his press pass credentials were “withheld” from Obidi. But this wasn’t secret information. And Obidi also seems to have selectively reported the details of Carmody’s Linkedin page on his affidavits; Carmody’s Linkedin page is unambiguous about his journalistic career. And having an SFPD press pass is not the determinant of whether one is a journalist.

      Finally, Carmody’s rocky relationship with his fellow journalists does not strike me as the reason multiple cops and judges legally erred and subjected him to improper phone taps and searches — which were illegal no matter what you think about his politics or demeanor or ethics.

      Best,

      JE

      1. Joe,

        Obidi’s affidavit states on Feb. 28 he learned of Carmody’s involvement though Stevenson. That’s long before April when you say Carmody’s name was widely known by journalists. There’s no evidence of any other source of Carmody’s name except Stevenson(and his media contact). On a side note, another media person said they received a copy of the police report from a source that wasn’t Carmody. Not much has been mentioned of that.

        My question is what was the motivation of Stevenson’s contact to find and divulge Carmody’s name? It’s fair to ask(and speculate about) since the same question(and speculation) has been raised concerning the motivation of the SFPD person who leaked the report.

        My point about Fewer is again her motivation. She lashed out, vindictively seeking vengeance. It was “Trumpian”, reflecting poorly on her progressive values. She didn’t have to do it. Peskin was fair minded, calling for more facts before forming a opinion. I still believe that Carmody’s well known association with conservative positions colored and prejudiced the actions of (some)officials involved in this miscarriage of justice.

        Regards,

        1. Sir or madam —

          Again, I think that’s a stretch. Carmody was selling copies of an improperly leaked police report to the highest bidder, a legal act many felt to be repugnant. The fact he was doing this got back to the SFPD and the media because … he was doing this. I think it’s anger around this behavior and a political urgency to “do something” regarding the leak investigation that led to overreaches, not animus against his past politics.

          Bryan Carmody was not front-of-mind until the Adachi situation.

          Best,

          JE

          1. Joe,

            “..highest bidder”?? i read no allegation Carmody auctioned off the report. It was reported he set a price and accepted offers at that price, By its nature , there were a very limited number of buyers. So you’ve cast aspersions, similarly to Fewer. Is it repugnant to ply a legal trade in tragedy to earn a living? If so, most lawyers, undertakers, bidders at foreclosures, estate sales, and media are repugnant.

            As to animus against Carmody, it’s difficult to explain any other way why police and judges overlooked or ignored his being a journalist. Not collusion or conspiracy. Another journalist obtain the report but they weren’t targeted. People with animus typically patiently wait for a chance to exact pain. It’s been said revenge is a dish best served cold. Indeed, there was(is!) a political hue and cry from those enamored of Adachi to take heads. That created the opportunity for anyone with animus to skirt the law.

            This wasn’t a major crisis like 9/11 or widespread street riots. What you’re holding here is that minor “political urgency” is expected to motivate public officials to violate law. Nixon would agree, Peskin didn’t. Or is Peskin insufficiently concerned about defending and upholding Adachi’s memory?

            Regards,

          2. You’re telling me what was reported? Thanks.

            Your claim that this was a political conspiracy continues to be a major stretch. You are, in all seriousness, claiming that the police, that well-known bastion of liberalism, persecuted a man because of his conservative worldview.

            Carmody was targeted because he was doing something people found repugnant — profiting by selling a police report released by cops ostensibly hoping to smear Jeff Adachi — and he was a freelancer who did not have the weight of a union or a publication behind him. The shield law, thankfully, is broad. It covers freelancers. It covers people who are popular and not popular and offers a wide definition of who is a journalist and what journalism is. This is exactly why.

            Your invocation of 9/11 is ridiculous. The mayor wanted results. The Board, which held a hearing on this matter, wanted results. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression that shit rolls downhill, and here we are.

            Best,

            JE

          3. Joe,

            This being your site, you get the last word. But I looked up SFPD press pass and found this on fogcity concerning a earlier brouhaha.
            “While police policy specifically states press passes are reserved for outlets that regularly cover breaking news about fire and police events, an SFPD-issued press pass is required to access press facilities at City Hall including the press box in Board chambers”

            Contrary to your assertion otherwise, that policy establishes that pass holders are recognized by the City as journalists.

            And the Chronicle editorialized that Carmody was singled out for persecution:

            “The Chronicle obtained the same report that Carmody had. We didn’t pay for it, and we didn’t get it from him. Possibly we had the same source, but maybe not….And yet my house wasn’t the one where police brought a sledgehammer to force their way through the front door…”

            The only reasonable explanation for the special treatment Carmody received was it was personal. And considering the officials involved, it’s reasonable to suppose it was due in some part to his political associations. It would take a full investigation to determine how true that might be. No one, including me, is calling for that kind of investigation. I just hope the lynch mob in charge at City Hall is chastened. But I’m not counting on it.

          4. Sir or madam — 

            You’re not reading my replies, so I’m going to leave this here. As noted earlier, Carmody was singled out because he was: A. *selling the report* and thereby profiting off the smearing of Adachi’s rep, and; B. Not represented by a news organization or union.

            While Carmody’s capable attorneys later established that what he was doing was protected as “newsgathering” — it was the gathering of the report that was protected, regardless of what he did with it — what he did do with it was objectionable to many. The Chronicle was not selling the leaked report for profit. Carmody was. It’s for the best that the journalistic shield law is written broadly to protect behavior many would find offensive. That means he was protected. It does not mean what he was doing wasn’t objectionable, and that objectionable behavior spurred the responses it did from public officials angered at the savaging of Adachi before his body even cooled.

            Second, even the dimmest public official or cop being pressured by one knows not to launch a frontal assault on the only large newspaper in town. The vigorous response from the legal and journalistic community to the targeting of Carmody was predictable, but evidently not to the police and others who did just that.

            Your continued claim that “the only reasonable explanation” was Carmody’s conservative politics is not only unreasonable but stands contrary to the facts at hand.

            Best,

            JE

      2. Not Carmody’s rocky relationships, but his nightcrawler niche was definitely something a few on the inside track thought they would be able to exploit.

        If you look at initial comments by Fewer, the public defender, the public defender’s office (that bulllshit ‘I thought I was on my private twitter account’ was a joke), the mayor, the chief, and a few others; you do see that they were starting a campaign to change public sentiment (not a conspiracy).

        The most annoying part to me was the Chron. Servanoffsky upped the ante daily lambasting SF progressives. His boss, Audrey Cooper, came out five days after the arrest to convey how appalled she was, as if she was crystal clear from the get go. I don’t believe it.

        Carmody’s name wasn’t initially disclosed to the public to make our own conclusions, but Native is right — a few folks on the inside track who did know thought they could sell it as legit warrant. It’s an interesting angle that the judges, the mayor, the chief, and the PD’s office all initially thought they could pass off to the public as legit.

        1. Sir or madam — 

          It is a fantastically different thing to say that folks thought they could sell this doomed action as legit and were angry about the smearing of Jeff Adachi (for profit) — and slow to admit costly wrongdoing — than to claim that Carmody was being persecuted because he’s a political conservative by a cabal of politicians, judges, and cops (cops!) all waiting for the chance to spring the trap.

          JE

          1. Agreed. And that in a nutshell is why I was annoyed with Servanoffsky and Cooper’s reporting.

            Sir is a little formal. My name is Rosh. Pleasure chatting and thanks again for the excellent Adachi coverage. He’s missed.

  4. How many black eyes can a police chief receive before he is asked to resign or he leaves for greener fields that is a little less demanding than SF? Thanks for keeping the article real and non-partisan. Hope you your staff has been able to find a new office in the Mission.

    1. Thank you!

      We have found a lovely new office and it’s a pleasure to come to work every day.

      JE

  5. This is such a great San Francisco scandal.

    It has everything– a promising politician, rising hero of the left.. partying on coke at what looks like an unregistered AirBnB, while all the time knowing he had a bad ticker…tempting death… Then a mysterious lady with a vaguely Russian sounding name calls 911 from the AirBnB pad, before disappearing. Then– Years of animosity between said Pol and the cops, have given the cops a real ax to grind– raid a sleazy reporter’s office with arrest warrants that may or may not have been correctly served..Stay tuned….

    It’s even better than Fajitagate

  6. I need more information on the people in the Police Department that participated in the decisions to do the raid in the first place? What are their names and where are they now? Which ones took an early retirement?

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