Investigators in lost iPhone 4 prototype case expected to report findings soon

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A government probe into the high-profile case of an iPhone 4 prototype that was purchased by a gadget blog after it went missing from Apple last spring is on the verge of bearing its fruits, according to a published report.



Seeking an update on the case, CNet on Thursday contacted Stephen Wagstaffe, district attorney for the county of San Mateo, Calif., who told the publication that he believes the investigation could conclude as early as next month, as investigators are close to finishing their interviews before presenting him with their findings.



The investigation dates back nearly a year to last April when Robert Gray Powell, a 27-year old Apple employee working on the then unreleased iPhone 4's baseband, accidentally left an unmarked prototype of the handset at a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif. while he was out celebrating his birthday.



Brian Hogan, a 22-year-old student, subsequently found the prototype and sold it to Gawker Media's Gizmodo for $5,000 with the help of 27-year old University of California at Berkeley student Sage Robert Wallower, who reportedly acted as a fence.



Within days, Gizmodo had published photographs and videos of the device to its website, along with a teardown of the hardware, pieces of which were subsequently picked up by the national media and broadcast on network television news stations.







Almost immediately, Apple began pressuring local authorities to open an investigation into the matter, alleging that the prototype was so valuable -- since the product had not yet been introduced to the public -- that no price tag could be placed on it. At the same time, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs personally contacted Gizmodo editor Brian Lam via e-mail, requesting he return the device.



Thus far, no charges have been filed in the case, which is officially "a felony theft investigation." At issue is whether an actual crime took place and who should be held accountable should investigators determine that laws were broken.



For his part, Jobs has raised the possibility that the device may have actually been stolen from Powell at the bar, rather than just discovered after having been left behind.



"There's an ongoing investigation," Jobs told the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg during last June's All Things D conference. "I can tell you what I do know, though. To make a product you need to test it. You have to carry them outside. One of our employees was carrying one. There's a debate about whether he left it in a bar, or it was stolen out of his bag."







"The person who found it tried to sell it, they called Engadget, they called Gizmodo," he continued. "The person who took the phone plugged it into his roommates computer. [...] And this guy was trying to destroy evidence, and his roommate called the police."



"So this is a story that's amazing: it's got theft, it's got buying stolen property, it's got extortion, I'm sure there's some sex in there," Jobs quipped. "The whole thing is very colorful. The DA is looking into it, and to my knowledge they have someone making sure they only see stuff that relates to this case. I don't know how it will end up."



For their part, prosectors have maintained that media organizations like Gizmodo can not expect to be immune from criminal laws if they commit crimes. As such, they obtained a warrant to search the home of Jason Chen, one of the publication's editors, and proceeded to break down his door and seized four computers, two servers, and an assortment of other electronics in late April of 2010.



But as CNet points out, allegations raised by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other advocacy groups may serve to complicate matters with their claims that police violated the federal Privacy Protection Act, which broadly immunizes news organizations from searches--unless the journalists themselves committed the crime.



In addition, California law may provide protections to writers for newspapers, magazines, and "other periodical publications," the report adds, which is a term that a state court has applied to an Apple online publication before: AppleInsider.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,656member
    I don't think that Gizmodo should be covered under any journalism protection laws. What they did is purchase stolen goods and they fully well knew what they were doing. And then they went on to publish and leak the highly classified secrets of a new product from a billion dollar company. I'm with Apple on this one.
  • Reply 2 of 39
    gotwakegotwake Posts: 111member
    Man, these guys are fast.
  • Reply 3 of 39
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,578member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    I don't think that Gizmodo should be covered under any journalism protection laws. What they did is purchase stolen goods and they fully well knew what they were doing. And then they went on to publish and leak the highly classified secrets of a new product from a billion dollar company. I'm with Apple on this one.



    I'm pretty sure that shield laws don't immunize from extortion.
  • Reply 4 of 39
    nobodyynobodyy Posts: 377member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


    I'm pretty sure that shield laws don't immunize from extortion.



    It would shield them from publishing information about the phone, though.
  • Reply 5 of 39
    I'm sure whatever the outcome, it will be fascinating to hear and might even further expose the story behind it. Sure thing extortion and definitely, sex was involved.
  • Reply 6 of 39
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,578member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Nobodyy View Post


    It would shield them from publishing information about the phone, though.



    That's the least of their potential problems.
  • Reply 7 of 39
    whozownwhozown Posts: 128member
    Apple is gonna bring down the hammer on these guys.
  • Reply 8 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post


    I don't think that Gizmodo should be covered under any journalism protection laws. What they did is purchase stolen goods and they fully well knew what they were doing. And then they went on to publish and leak the highly classified secrets of a new product from a billion dollar company. I'm with Apple on this one.



    Well said. I completely agree with you.



    Even if the journalism part is protected (which it shouldn't be, in my opinion, since that prototype was confidential), Gizmodo shouldn't be protected from laws regarding the purchase of a stolen object.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    imoanimoan Posts: 56member
    I wondered what happened with this case.



    I say jail is too good for em! Hang em high I say!
  • Reply 10 of 39
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,215member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post


    I'm pretty sure that shield laws don't immunize from extortion.



    Correct. Shield laws would have protected them if they had said 'a source' gave them the photos etc. they couldn't be forced to name the source. That was their mistake. Bragging they themselves had it.



    But nothing protects anyone for criminal activity, which under Cali law they are very possibly guilty of, as is Hogan. Because in Cali if you find something and don't make a genuine effort to return it you stole it. Which, it could be argued is exactly what Hogan did when he took the phone home instead of handing it over to the staff. That he thought he was just getting a free phone not a prototype doesn't matter. It doesn't help that he knew the guys Facebook, employment etc.



    And Giz admitting they paid and that much was not a good move.



    That said, I suspect they will get a hand slap, maybe small fine with some probation and a lifetime ban from all Apple events and review unit lists.
  • Reply 11 of 39
    A little slap and a spank will be needed to straight things up..
  • Reply 12 of 39
    If it was phone 7 you guys would be crying Stalinism... it's a shame that anyone would get behind corporate interests to this extent. Why not make it a crime to view the photos? I mean we all knew what it was... You kids, you'll get us another Patriot Act if you're not careful.
  • Reply 13 of 39
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,980member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by autism109201 View Post


    Well said. I completely agree with you.



    Even if the journalism part is protected (which it shouldn't be, in my opinion, since that prototype was confidential), Gizmodo shouldn't be protected from laws regarding the purchase of a stolen object.



    National secrets aren't protected why should a cell phone be?
  • Reply 14 of 39
    modemode Posts: 163member
    Just another disgusting day in America.
  • Reply 15 of 39
    aiaddictaiaddict Posts: 487member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Whozown View Post


    Apple is gonna bring down the hammer on these guys.



    Which is exactly the problem. Apple, as a corporation, should not own the local law enforcement and be able to come down on anyone for anything in a potential criminal case.



    If anyone faces charges it should be Hogan. I doubt Gizmodo will be charged.
  • Reply 16 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DeanSolecki View Post


    If it was phone 7 you guys would be crying Stalinism...



    A lot of people made fun of this engineer for his stupidity/carelessness. It would be the same if it were MSFT. People would certainly be ripping the company as well, but there are a lot of fair-minded people who would react similarly.



    Quote:

    it's a shame that anyone would get behind corporate interests to this extent.



    Really? Fanboyism aside, note that a lot of us own AAPL. If the company loses a competitive edge and the stock underperforms, our portfolios also underperform.



    Quote:

    Why not make it a crime to view the photos? I mean we all knew what it was... You kids, you'll get us another Patriot Act if you're not careful.



    Theft and selling/receiving stolen goods have been illegal long before the Patriot Act was ever conceived. They are not the same - even in principle, but you already knew that.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    modemode Posts: 163member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AIaddict View Post


    Which is exactly the problem. Apple, as a corporation, should not own the local law enforcement and be able to come down on anyone for anything in a potential criminal case.



    If anyone faces charges it should be Hogan. I doubt Gizmodo will be charged.



    What? A number with a name attached to it shouldn't have more value, rights and power then human life?

    That kinda talk will get you labeled around here.
  • Reply 18 of 39
    brainlessbrainless Posts: 272member
    I thought Jason Chen was already executed for his horrible crime. Now I just learned he might be just still under arrest eating the taxpayer money. At least hope they transferred him to Guantanamo, good that Obama was just joking when he said he would close it down soon.
  • Reply 19 of 39
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,656member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Mode View Post


    What? A number with a name attached to it shouldn't have more value, rights and power then human life?

    That kinda talk will get you labeled around here.



    A new iPhone is more important than certain humans, especially criminals. Maybe their parents should have raised them better.
  • Reply 20 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BigBillyGoatGruff View Post


    A lot of people made fun of this engineer for his stupidity/carelessness. It would be the same if it were MSFT. People would certainly be ripping the company as well, but there are a lot of fair-minded people who would react similarly.







    Really? Fanboyism aside, note that a lot of us own AAPL. If the company loses a competitive edge and the stock underperforms, our portfolios also underperform.







    Theft and selling/receiving stolen goods have been illegal long before the Patriot Act was ever conceived. They are not the same - even in principle, but you already knew that.



    The fact that you also have a vested interest doesn't mean that it justifies what could be called socially irresponsible endorsement of oppression. (this is a strong word, but set aside hyperbolic sentimentalities and I think you could understand what I'm reaching for; I'm not talking of fascism). If anything it means you're in the same position of bias. If one day a company that I hold stock in violates your "rights" I guess I will owe you the same apathy, and I assure you it isn't as uncommon as you may think.



    It wasn't the theft of the hardware that was the concern. It was the theft of the information.. In that respect you and I consuming that information on a rumor site would be receiving that stolen information just a step or two down the line. We should all have our hands cut off.
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