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Police raid of reporter's home marks new twist in unexpected death of public defender

San Francisco -- A freelance journalist is vowing to protect his source after San Francisco police raided his home and office while keeping him handcuffed for several hours as part of a criminal investigation, according to a newspaper report. Bryan Carmody told the Los Angeles Times that officers banged on his door Friday and confiscated dozens of personal items including notebooks, his cellphone, computer, hard drives and cameras.

A judge signed off on search warrants, which stated officers were investigating "stolen or embezzled" property, the newspaper reported Saturday. Authorities said the raid came during an ongoing probe into who leaked a confidential police report about the Feb. 22 death of San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.

Carmody said investigators had asked him a few weeks earlier to identify the source that provided him with the report. The reporter said he politely declined.

Jeff Adachi
In this photo from Tuesday, June 9, 2009, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is photographed at his office in San Francisco.  AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

While he was shackled, officers got a second warrant to search his newsroom, where police seized a thumb drive, CDs and, inside a safe, the leaked police report about Adachi's death, the Times said.

Carmody, 49, said he has not shared the name of his source with anyone, and no markings on the document could be traced to the person who provided it.

To Carmody and his attorney, the raid smacks of impropriety and an invasion into the work of a professional reporter.

"It's designed to intimidate," said his lawyer, Thomas Burke. "It's essentially the confiscation of a newsroom."

Meanwhile the incident provided a new twist in the story of the unexpected death of Adachi, who left behind a legacy of championing civil rights.

Initial reports said the 59-year-old elected public defender had been traveling when he suddenly had a heart attack.

Carmody said while trying to figure out exactly where Adachi died, salacious details began emerging that were difficult to confirm. "There were leaks happening all over the place," he recalled. He ultimately obtained an incident report that detailed Adachi's final moments.

The San Francisco Chronicle also obtained a copy of the report, but not from Carmody.

The document, as reported by KGO-TV in San Francisco, detailed that shortly before his death, Adachi had dinner with a woman named "Caterina" who was not his wife, then returned to an apartment he arranged to use for the weekend. The woman called 911 for emergency medical help, and Adachi was taken to the hospital, where he died. Later that night, officers went to the apartment and found "alcohol, cannabis-infused gummies and syringes believed to have been used by the paramedics," the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Photos of the apartment circulated online by KTVU-TV and other news outlets.

Carmody told the Chronicle that he sold his news package on Adachi package to three TV stations.

CBS San Francisco reports a statement issued Sunday by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists "condemns the recent raid by law enforcement of freelance journalist Bryan Carmody, in an apparent attempt to identify the confidential source who provided Carmody with a copy of a police report detailing the circumstances of former San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi's death."

City officials also criticized police for allowing the details of a confidential report to end up in the headlines. The police launched an internal investigation into the report's leaking, which led to Friday's raid at Carmody's home.

"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," police spokesman David Stevenson said in a statement Saturday to the Times.

The affidavits that police used to search Carmody's home were filed under seal, so it's unclear what investigators told the judge to secure the warrants.

Carmody is insisting on protecting his source's identity. And he swears he never paid the person for the police report. "No," he told the Times, "not even a cup of coffee."

According to an official with the San Francisco Public Defender's office during a Board of Supervisors committee hearing April 18, a freelance photographer allegedly offered a TV news station confidential police information about the death of Adachi in exchange for money, CBS San Francisco reported.

"Journalists should consider the motivations of anonymous sources and news organizations should disclose when content has been provided by outside sources, whether paid or not," the SPJ chapter said in its statement.

"While there may be legitimate questions on the circumstances surrounding the reporting of Adachi's death, the seizure of any journalist's notes or other reporting materials sets a dangerous precedent."