UC Berkeley law alum Jeff Adachi made quite a name for himself in San Francisco, where he served as public defender and produced independent films such as Slanted Screen, about the representation of Asians in movies and Defender, about the trial of Michael Smith. The public defender’s office represented Jose Inez Garcia Zarate for the shooting of Kate Steinle in 2015, then Adachi jumped on board with a documentary about the case titled Ricochet.
Jeff Adachi passed away on February 22 and the death of the 59-year-old was attributed to a mixture of cocaine and alcohol, plus heart trouble. According to the police report, Adachi was in the company of a woman identified only as “Caterina,” who explained that Adachi wanted to use the apartment where police found syringes, empty bottles of alcohol, and cannabis “gummies.”
According to ABC News, the mysterious Caterina called 911 on Adachi’s cell phone then called realtor Susie Kurtz explaining that something was wrong with the public defender. According to Kurtz, Caterina was left alone in the apartment after medical personnel departed, and had sole access to a possible crime scene for approximately two hours before police arrived. Police were unable to locate Caterina and have not questioned her about Adachi’s death.
Local freelance reporter Bryan Carmody thought the circumstances of Adachi’s death were unusual, and began to investigate. Carmody told Matthew Keys of the California Globe that as he gathered information, an unnamed individual provided him with a 16-page police dossier with photographs and investigator’s reports.
In April, two San Francisco police officers visited Carmody’s home and asked him for his source. Carmody told the Globe one of the officers threatened a federal grand jury subpoena against the reporter. California law protects reporters from disclosure in police investigations and Carmody declined to reveal his source.
San Francisco police suspected Carmody might be in possession of stolen property and evidence connected to a felony. The reporter was not charged with any crime, but on May 9, a San Francisco police officer obtained a search warrant for Carmody’s residence. In one account they “broke down his door with a sledgehammer, and confiscated his notebooks, cellphone, computer, hard drives, and cameras.” They also confiscated the leaked report from a safe and took away more than $30,000 of Carmody’s video equipment.
His lawyer described the raid as “confiscation of a newsroom.” Carmody denied police charges that he bribed someone to gain the report. Police and FBI agents handcuffed Carmody for six hours during the search, but the reporter declined to reveal his source. The prime mover of the raid was also unknown, along with the judges who signed the warrant.
San Francisco mayor London Breed, a Democrat, said judges made the call “and so at this point, you know, I support their decision.” Carmody was still not charged with a crime and would not have violated the law if he paid for the documents. Even so, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said the reporter “crossed the line,” motivated by profit or animosity toward Adachi.
Mayor Breed flip-flopped on the raid and San Francisco public officials were divided. Veteran California journalist Dan Walters, now with CALmatters, knew what the deal was.
Carmody sold the report, “which is how freelancers make their living,” Walters wrote. The material “obviously tarnished the image of Adachi, who had been something of a heroic figure to those in the city’s left-leaning political culture.” The police “felt justified in conducting a paramilitary raid on Carmody’s home—the kind usually associated with gun-toting suspects.”
And the case was not a one-off.
As Walters recalled, UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program used California’s Public Records Act to obtain nearly 12,000 names of law enforcement officers or applicants who had committed crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder. This was all a matter of public record but state Attorney General Xavier Becerra, once on Hillary Clinton’s short list as a running mate, “threatened legal, or even criminal, action” against the reporters.
“We’ve come to expect harassment and even intimidation of journalists in places like Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela,” Walters wrote, “but in supposedly enlightened and liberal California?” Other events might enlighten that question.
UC Davis English professor Joshua Clover was on record that, “it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?” and “people think that cops need to be reformed. They need to be killed.” The professor, a communist according to his publisher, did not change his mind after Davis police officer Natalie Corona, 22, was gunned down in January.
Assemblyman James Gallagher, Yuba City Republican, authored a resolution urging the University of California to terminate Clover’s employment at the University of California, Davis. As Katy Grimes reports at the California Globe, “last week Democrats refused to even hear the resolution.”