Police raided the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen late Friday, busting down the door to serve a search warrant that suggests that the site’s role in obtaining an iPhone prototype is being investigated as a felony, according to a post and documents published on the Gizmodo website.

The search, which wreaks of violating journalists’ protections against such warrants, involved the seizure of four computers and two servers, among other things, from Chen’s home, which doubles as his workplace.

The warrant was approved by a judge in San Mateo County, home of the bar where Apple software engineer Gray Powell lost a prototype of Apple’s yet-to-be-revealed next iPhone. Cupertino, which is home to Apple HQ, is in neighboring Santa Clara County. Chen lives in Alameda County, which is just across the bay from San Mateo County.

  1. bobbo, a slow reader of the Constitution and SC cases says:

    What are these “special privileges” that journalists supposedly have? With the Feds, its almost none, varies thereafter from state to state with as near as none as you can get.

    Usually just treated like every other citizen except the CONTEXT (sorry to sound so erudite) is reporters/journalists with some vague recollection of the First Amendment.

    I’ll go read the link but they have been uniformly lacking in detail beyond what gets in the header. Imagine journalists reporting about journalists? No bias there.

  2. Killer Duck says:

    Check out the warrant…it claims the computers were used to commit a felony. He’s efhed.
    He claims he is a “journalist” and exempt from the warrant…meanwhile, he also wants to be exempt from any level of journalistic integrity or ethics.
    Apple could claim he cost them millions if not billions in lost sales for 2Q as people will now wait until this summer to get the new phone. And even if Apple doesn’t sue him, I am sure there is some class action lawyer that will want to sue on behalf of the shareholders if he can. People suck, all around.

  3. Larry Budd says:

    He bought stolen property, sure, he gave it back, but not before disassembling it, and writing a half dozen articles on it. All giving Gizmodo a hell of a lot of traffic and ad revenue. So no this is in no way a clear cut case of violating “Journalistic Protections”.

  4. JFetch says:

    When I pointed out that this would happen, I got called an Apple fanboy.

    His journalist credentials only save him from having to leak his source, not keep him out of trouble for buying stolen property.

  5. KagatoAMV says:

    I had the same reaction, I never heard anything about Journalists being protected from search warrants in relation to the commission of a felony.

  6. firefighter says:

    Was it worth having all of your stuff taken?

  7. david knows says:

    its a blood cell phone for cry out loud

  8. Dallas says:

    this is an unfortunate escalation by what I view now as a sour Apple. My guess is this is motivated by the free publicity Apple craves.

  9. jay says:

    Journalists, i thought they where just bloggers

  10. bobbo, an expert in one field may not be so in any other says:

    The guy/journalist writing this article OBVIOUSLY has never read a court case ruling on a First Amendment case pertaining to journalists.

    I can see the regurgitation of Journalism 101 liberal professors pumping out what they wished and hoped was the case, but reality is so very different.

    The opinion piece is so wrong, most (I hope) would agree that it “should be” wrong.

    “I’m a journalist. Everything I do is protected by the first Amendment.” Whadda douche.

  11. JFetch says:


    Apple doesn’t want publicity it doesn’t control. Right now, everyone is supposed to be focusing on the iPad 3g. Now everyone is focusing on the iPhone instead, and a lot of people are now going to wait to buy one until the new version comes out.

    Apple likes to control everything, and projects their sales based on their announcements leading to a quick launch. This mess screwed up their formula.

  12. Neodiablo23 says:

    This couldn’t happen to a bigger group of jack offs.

  13. chuck says:

    #3 – I thought the purpose of newspapers was to generate ad revenue for their publishers.

    (Okay, I realize that these days, most newspapers seem to be specializing in losing as much money as possible.)

  14. Lou says:

    Yet, Bush & Cheney still walk free. Hmmmmm

  15. Buzz says:

    Hey, some guy dropped a notebook in a local Jamba Juice.

    It contained plans for stealing money directly from internet accounts.

    They tried to call and tell him that they had his notebook, but couldn’t get through, so they sold the notebook to Jason Chen, who published everything in it on Gizmodo.

    Then Jason was surprised as can be when Homeland security, the FBI, local police, the DEA, NSA and the CIA all had warrants to search every square millimeter of his life.

    “That was a shocker,” said Chen, “and I had no idea what they meant by a deep cavity search. At least, now I know what’s been hiding in my appendix.”

  16. Howard says:

    this could have been put into play by the private citizen who works for Apple that had the phone stolen(lost?) from him

    Giz did out him and cause him lots on pain and embarrassment(a job maybe?) If i were him I’d go after Giz with or with out Apple’s backing.

    personally i will no longer visit the Giz. I use to think they were rude just sophomoric but what they did to that guy was inexcusable.

    engadget has my inner nerd covered

  17. honeyman says:

    Just more evidence of how the corporations run government and law enforcement. Would you get the same attention if some joker stole your phone?

  18. Personality says:

    San Mateo County is about to get the evar lovin shit hacked out of them.

  19. Micromike says:

    This case has nothing to do with journalism. That is a big smokescreen and maybe their only defense. It is a case of stolen property and industrial espionage with Gizmodo both publishing, and profiting from, the photos of the stolen merchandise. I think they paid a guy to steal it, but they definitely received stolen property and attempted to profit from it. They are sleazeballs and should disgust you.

  20. Hmeyers says:

    This “journalist” is in the wrong.

    Theft is theft. You don’t have the right to make $$$ off of theft of property from a corporation.

    This guy is no Woodward and Bernstein. Just an opportunist.

  21. sargasso says:

    I have to agree with #12, Neodiablo23

  22. RTaylor says:

    I can’t think of a more vindictive bastard than Steve Jobs to have as an enemy. Apple will bury them with litigation costs. Every asshole that posts on the internet isn’t a journalist, me being a case in point. Nick Denton should have anticipated Jobs going for the jugular, the damn fool. There will be criminal charges filled, followed by a whale of a civil suit.

  23. LaMoora says:

    Something tells me the engineer that left the prototype at a bar is now applying for the position of dishwasher at that same bar.

  24. Joe says:

    Steve Jobs stole a liver. Just saying…

  25. Faxon says:

    #14 Get over it.

  26. Faxon says:

    #24 Yea. Somebody died so that Fabby Stevy could live. I’m talking about the person who did NOT get a liver in Tennessee that month. Obviously, some institution in Tennessee got a new wing from an unrevealed donor. Tennessee? Really? Better than STANFORD for Christ’s sake?????

  27. Awake says:

    Very interesting commentary on this matter, covering both sides, including the laws that apply to journalistic privacy:


    Basically it says that “journalists” are legally protected from having their files seized because of the right of journalists to have confidential sources. If you disagree, imagine for a moment a world where journalists of any type can’t have confidential sources because their computers are subject to seizure and inspection at any time for unproven (no trail conducted) allegations of misbehavior. Sources would be in constant fear of exposure, and therefore there would be no confidential sources.

    I predict that the Santa Clara county police department will deeply regret their actions, and more importantly that there will be a serious journalistic backlash against Apple, maybe even an embargo on mentioning ANY of their products by mainstream media… the Apple hype machine may have just committed suicide by pissing off their most valuable ally.

  28. bobbo, nice mix of First Amendment and Felony Crimes says:

    Awake–thanks for the link. Good to learn that California has a reporters shield law.

    My uninformed best guess is that the shield law was meant to keep sources confidential. Sources of governmental secrets being the highest the main/original intent. Can/should the theft of private commercial property be on the same footing?

    I think not, but people could differ I suppose. In like manner, I don’t see how a search warrant was issued given the property had been returned ((I’m assuming that from what I’ve read elsewhere.)) In most civil cases, normal discovery would be granted–not search warrants.

    Yes, lots of issues with only tangential case law on point. Lots of arguments to be made on both sides of all the issues.

  29. Mr. Fusion says:

    #27, Awake,

    Good link.

    Stephen M. Wagstaffe, the San Mateo County chief deputy district attorney, said Mr. Chen’s computers had not yet been searched and he cited “further consideration” of the legal issues brought up by Gawker. “We are holding onto the computer; we are not searching it yet,” he said.

    The investigating officer in the case, Matthew Broad, works for the Raid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, a computer task force. Detective Broad said he had been told not to speak about the case. Apple is a member of React’s steering committee, according to a San Jose Business Journal article published last year. Officers who answered the phones at the task force’s office declined to confirm Apple’s status on the steering committee.

    Legal experts said there was little doubt that bloggers qualified. “Of all places, California is probably the most clear that what Gizmodo does and what Jason Chen does is journalism,” said Sam Bayard, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

    He said the case could hinge on whether there is an exception in the law involving a journalist committing a crime, “in this case receipt of stolen property. He said “this seems unlikely based on the plain language of the statute.”


    Either some Judge has some explaining to do about why he signed the warrant or some police have some explaining why they lied to the Judge.

  30. JFetch says:


    The difference here and the reason the shield law doesn’t apply is because they actually bought the stolen item in question. That made them at the very least, accomplices. They are not making them give up their informant.

    The police have every right to search through anyone’s stuff that is suspected of actually participating in the crime. If they happen to come across the informant’s name, which they will, then he will be arrested for stealing the phone. If they had just took pictures and the guy took it with him when he left, they would be fine, and they could keep him safe with the shield law.


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