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Public Figure's Death Turns Into San Francisco Flash Point

Cops raid reporter's home after he won't give up source about late public defender Jeff Adachi
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2019 9:04 AM CDT

(Newser) – A tangled case in San Francisco revolves around the death of a popular public defender and a reporter's refusal to give up a source who leaked unsavory details about that death. All of this came to a head Friday, when the police and FBI raided the home-office of freelance reporter Bryan Carmody and kept him handcuffed for about six hours as they seized notebooks, hard drives, cameras, and more, reports the Los Angeles Times. He continues to refuse to give up his source, and he says nothing that was seized will reveal the name. Here's a look at what's happening:

  • The death: On Feb. 22, city Public Defender Jeff Adachi died at age 59 of what was initially reported to be a heart attack while traveling. Carmody began digging into the story and eventually received a police report with some salacious details, per the AP.
  • Other woman: The report said Adachi had been out to dinner with a woman who wasn't his wife, and they returned to an apartment he had arranged to use for the weekend. This woman is the one who called 911, and the medical examiner later ruled that a mixture of cocaine and alcohol caused Adachi's heart to stop, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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  • The backlash: Details of the salacious aspects of Adachi's death (see this February report in KGO, with references to empty bottles of alcohol, an unmade bed, and cannabis gummies) drew much attention and anger. As the Washington Post explains, Adachi had been a police watchdog, and the speculation was that someone in the department leaked the report as retaliation.
  • Carmody's role: He's a freelancer who does his own investigating and then sells his reports to local TV stations, as happened in this case. He says investigators asked him to reveal his source a few weeks ago, and he declined, cordially. Then came Friday morning, when about 10 officers started bashing in his front gate with a sledgehammer before Carmody woke and let them in. "It’s designed to intimidate," his lawyer, Thomas Burke, tells the LA Times. "It’s essentially the confiscation of a newsroom."
  • Police defend: In a statement over the weekend, the San Francisco Police Department defended the raid amid criticism that it was an infringing on a reporter's rights. "The citizens and leaders of the City of San Francisco have demanded a complete and thorough investigation into this leak, and this action represents a step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice along with the illegal distribution of confidential police material," it said.
  • Still mum: “There’s only two people on this planet who know who leaked this report—me and the guy who leaked it,” Carmody tells the Post. In the meantime, the confiscation of his equipment essentially means he can't work, and he's launched a GoFundMe page to buy new gear.
(Read more reporter stories.)

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