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, nice mix of First Amendment and Felony Crimes says:

    Just listened to the Tech Five Report. JCD thinks this incident will be covered in the press for awhile.

    Many complain of the “rich” getting “special treatment.” “Usually” the special treatment is that they get ALL the protections the law allows. Most of us just can’t afford it==lawyers ready at the snap of a finger to file court papers and what not.

    If any of you had any of your “stuff” stolen ((said concept applies whether or not it was first “lost” given the chain of recipients each knew it wasn’t theirs and did know who’s it was)) wouldn’t you want it back and the guilty prosecuted?

    Steve Jobs/Apple is no different. The first amendment rights are very secondary to the felony theft issues raised here.

  2. Buzz says:

    Let’s just say that the value of the lost iphone was c. $10,000,000.

    And let’s just stipulate that the value of the secrecy it embodied doubled that.

    Mr. Chen might find himself the recipient, acting with malice aforethought, of about $20,000,000 of now-stolen property, from which he obviously intended to and actually did derive great benefit. His act of “buying” it being the pivotal action that turned it from “lost” to “stolen.”

    Why did he buy it? To do the right thing and get it back to Apple? He took it apart, fer crissake!

    Journalism? Journalistic “sources?” The now-stolen phone is not a source. It is a self-evident embodiment of trade secrets, future careful revelation and multi-million or billion dollar product trade.

    Try theft for personal gain, however that gain is played out, and whatever the court decides the value of the object was on March 15.

    Personalities aside, a jury might send him away for way more years than he could afford to while away. Or a minimum of zillions of dollars worth of community service, fines up the wazoo and a record for felony theft, conspiracy and being a dick.

    How long of a prison visit would a jewel thief caught with $20 million in loot get?

  3. Buzz says:

    (typo: not dollars, hours of comunity service)

  4. Buzz says:


  5. KarmaBaby says:

    So what’s the problem? Newspapers and network news always cite or disclose the contents of internal memo’s, emails, and other documents that they shouldn’t have in their possession. In this case, it was a phone, not a document. The biggest thing learned is that the phone has a new shape. So what?

    Not sticking up for the Gizmodo guy, but car magazines trip over each other to get photos of next year’s badly-disguised cars being tested on public streets. No one’s suing the magazines’ butts off.

  6. deowll says:

    Why did the cops break the door? Seriously. Did they think he was going to flush the evidence down the john or something?

    What exactly do they think they might find on his computers? A text file saying what?

    Gizmodo did make a strategic mistake. They should _not_ have actually taken custody of the phone. Everything else was clear.

    The next issue is that, if Apple didn’t want this to become a big story that would freeze Iphone sells, this is _not_ the way to go.

    I’m not saying Apple prompted the raid but if they did or didn’t and Apple sues Gizmodo at some future date for damages the further notoriety the case has gotten due to the raid and whatever comes out of it will taint the case.

    If you charge some one with receiving stolen property you have to put a value on it. Legally speaking what is the value of this item? The value of its components? They got a bricked phone. I wouldn’t have given you six cents for it.

  7. deowll says:

    Okay I left out a vital point. Gizmodo made it clear they weren’t sure this phone had anything to do with Apple until Apple confirmed it. Unless you can get around that…

  8. MikieV says:

    #37 “Gizmodo made it clear they weren’t sure this phone had anything to do with Apple until Apple confirmed it. Unless you can get around that…”

    Get around that?


    They published photos of Apple part-numbers on some of the internal components?

    It is a type of iPhone none of them has seen before – and they make a living out of following hardware trends & rumors on such devices – and it had been remotely wiped??

    After being wiped, it would only prompt them to sync it with iTunes??

    Does that sound like a WindowsMobile device? An Android device? A Nokia prototype?

  9. Awake says:

    #30 JFetch,

    Is it wrong for a journalist to pay for information of public interest in all cases? In this case, the journalist was offered an item of public interest for a price, and he has no obligation to inquire on how the object was obtained, only to report his findings if he believes that the story is worth publishing.

    We may be talking about something trivial like the next-Gen iPhone, but at what point you change it over to non-trivial. Who determines the importance of the information?

    Suppose that I as a journalist were to pay $5000 for stolen documents that show that an auto-maker know his vehicles were dangerous and defective. It is stolen information, hence I should not publish it?

    Or if I get my hands on the next-gen Zune, would a police raid still happen on the reporter when nobody cares about what was published?

    IMHO, the seizure of the computers is wrong, very very wrong in this case. The accused journalist did not order the theft of the item (he is not an accomplice to theft), he reported on an item that was offered to him for money and that he thought was of public interest. Great public interest. He had no need to inquire where it came from, just that he got it and this is what it is about.

    Apple had a drunk employee lose one of their next-generation products, and it ended in the hands of the press. Tough. Too bad. Shut up and improve your corporate security. But to push your corporate weight to violate the 1st amendment to the Constitution (basically that the press can report anything they want to), is a national disgrace, and so are those that allowed this to happen.

    If the police what to charge anybody with theft, they should use their own investigative methods to figure out, but that does not include the seizure of constitutionally protected sources.

    Laws were violated here on both sides, but the iPhone theft is trivial compared to the violation of Constitutional protection of journalists.

  10. MikieV says:

    #36: “If you charge some one with receiving stolen property you have to put a value on it.”

    Gizmodo paid $5000.00 for it, apparently -hoping- that it was a genuine iPhone prototype…

    I can only assume they would have paid more if they -knew- it was the genuine article.

    So, the value should be at least $5000.00

  11. MikieV says:

    #39: “…he has no obligation to inquire on how the object was obtained,…”

    And pawn shop operators should follow the same criteria?

    Tabloid journalists should be buying photos and personal effects of people of “public interest” just because they believe the story is worth publishing – and who cares how they were obtained?

    #39: “Suppose that I as a journalist were to pay $5000 for stolen documents that show that an auto-maker know his vehicles were dangerous and defective. It is stolen information, hence I should not publish it?”

    Only if you give it to the DA first, and arrange a way to publish which won’t undermine prosecution of the case against the criminals.

    Otherwise, you are just seeking attention for yourself – “Look at me! See what I uncovered!” – and not serving the public interest.

    #39: “Or if I get my hands on the next-gen Zune, would a police raid still happen on the reporter when nobody cares about what was published?”

    I don’t know, is the DA & Police only doing this because it is Apple?

    Or, did it only come to the authority’s attention because so many “fanbois” raised a stink about it?

    If there weren’t enough Zune fanbois, or Android fanbois, or Blackberry fanbois to raise a stink if their favorite platform’s prototype was “purchased” in such a fashion… maybe they wouldn’t be on the authority’s radar.

  12. Awake says:

    #41 MikieV

    You lost your whole argument when you made the retarded comparison of Pawn Shop operators and journalists.

    And BTW, it is up to the judgment of the publisher if a story is published or withheld in the public interest, not the DA or any other authority. And just how does the publication of information affect the investigation about the publication of information, when the publication of the information is the issue of the investigation?

    Another BTW… if Apple was not on the “Steering Committee” of the agency in charge of the investigation, would the investigation have taken place at all? That is a VERY important question about corporate influence. After all, in the big scheme of things, this was a minor ‘theft’ (if it was a theft at all, still very debatable), and was the result of corporate ineptitude on Apple’s part, not the result of some major plot to steal corporate secrets by breaking into Apple’s headquarters laser beam protected ‘next iPhone’ vault. Again, a drunk employee lost their new toy and the world knows about it… tooo friggin bad Apple… man up, learn from your mistake and move on.

  13. Uncle Patso says:

    Why in Hell do so many call it “stolen” property? How many people go to a bar, get drunk and leave behind their cell phones? I would hazard a guess of “a lot.” Does that require SWAT teams to break down the doors of all bars looking for stolen property? I guess the next time I see a dime on the street, I’ll have to run as fast as I can in the other direction, move to another state, change my name and not answer the door.

    = = = = =

    Part of the search warrant:


    Appendix “B”

    Description of property to be seized:

    1. Computer systems, digital storage devices, computer hardware (including peripherals and cables), and data, including but not limited to central processing units (CPUs), hard disk drives, thumb drives, flash drives, digital cameras, digital video cameras, floppy disk drives, tape drives, removable media drives, optical/CD-ROM drives, servers, workstations, display screens, thumb drives, memory cards, cellular telephones, digital cameras, input devices (including but not limited to keyboards, mice, and trackballs), printers, modems, peripherals, floppy disks, magnetic tapes, cassette tapes, removable storage media, and/or optical CD-ROM disks or cartridges, found together or separately from one another. Such systems also commonly include cables linking computer systems to other systems or phone lines.

    2. Documentation or other material describing the operation of any computer systems, computer hardware, software, and/or computer peripherals found at the premises, including instructions on how to access disks, files, or other material stored within same, including but not limited to computer manuals, printouts, passwords, file name lists, “readme” and/or “help files.”

    3. All records and data located and/or stored on any computers, hard drives, or memory storage devices, located at the listed location including digital photographs and/or video of the Apple prototype 4G iPhone, email communications pertaining to the sale of photographs of the prototype phone and/or the sale of the physical prototype 4G Apple iPhone, internet history, cache files, and/or Internet pages pertaining to searches and/or research conducted on Apple employee Gray Powell, call records, contact lists, text messages related to the sale of photographs of the prototype iPhone and/or physical prototype iPhone, and indicia that identifies the owner and/or operators of the computer or electronic device. I further request that the above items be allowed to be examined by a forensic computer examiner and that the examination be conducted at an offsite facility due to the need for special equipment to properly conduct the examination and preserve the evidence and that said search may be continued beyond the ten-day period beginning upon issuance of this Search Warrant, to the extent necessary to complete the search on the computer systems.

    4. Printed documents, images, and/or notations pertaining to the sale and/or purchase of the stolen iPhone prototype and/or the sale and/or transfer of trade secret information pertaining to the iPhone prototype.

    5. Any article of personal property tending to establish the identity of persons who have dominion and control over the premises and vehicles to be searched, including all keys to the described location and vehicles, rent receipts, utility bills, telephone bills, addressed mail, purchase receipts, sales receipts, and articles of personal property tending to show ownership of vehicles including, but not limited to vehicle pink slips and vehicle registration. All personal property and documents used by the persons named as means of identification, including but not limited to driver’s licenses, credit cards, passports, social security cards, and photographs relative to the person(s) described.

    = = = = =

    If they showed up at my place with that list, they’d better have brought a good-sized truck with them. That would clean out about half my house, including the entire contents of my wallet except the actual cash (if any). And how the hell am I supposed to keep the other half from being stolen if they take all my keys, even assuming I can get the door back on its hinges?

  14. Uncle Patso says:

    And no, it’s not a typo on my part; the warrant does mention “digital cameras” twice in the same paragraph, along with “digital video cameras.”

  15. ggore says:

    Uncle Patso, lots of people get drunk and leave their cellphones in bars. But the right & proper thing to do, the thing 99% of people do, the common sense thing to do, the LAWFUL thing to do, if you find any kind of property in a bar that someone has lost, is to GIVE IT TO, OR TELL THE BARTENDER about it! According to Gizmodo’s own article and statements from the owner and bartender of the bar in question, this did NOT happen. The “unknown person” found the phone, took it home with him, kept it and played with it for a week, and maybe tried to call Apple.

    This is a strange aspect to the incident. Why call Apple? Why not try to get the phone back to the owner? The person who lost their phone at the bar. If you find some Ford keys on the floor of a bar, do you take them home with you, keep them for a week, and then call Ford to see who owns them? In a word: NO!

    This is when the whole case turned into a theft, when the finder made no effort to notify the bartender or owner of the bar and just took the phone home with him and then sold it to Gizmodo, who by buying it becomes a part to the theft.

  16. whaap says:

    Jail the twat and move on, he’s a thief. Hate Apple’s tactics, hate thieves more.

  17. Chuckie3 says:

    In the 2nd paragraph, I don’t think “wreaks” is the correct word – “reeks” is the word. As a journalist or a journalist fan you need to get this kind of thing right.

  18. whaap says:

    #49 go back to school, wreaks is as correct as reeks.

  19. gmknobl says:

    Liberal journalism professors had nothing to do with this, just an incomplete understanding of journalistic first amendment rights. It takes a neocon idiot to claim liberals had something to do with this at all.

    A) The guy got the wrong people pissed off by not following due diligence in obtaining it in the first place, exposing the poor dude who lost it then parading it all over the place and taking his good time in returning it (if he ever did at all).
    B) (speculation) A judge saw he got too many people pissed off and was acting like either an idiot, an a**hole or both so issued a warrant for search and seizure.
    C) The guy yells “first amendment” either because he is confused, an idiot or both.

  20. MikieV says:

    #42: “You lost your whole argument when you made the retarded comparison of Pawn Shop operators and journalists.”

    Just like you lost your argument with that retarded ” …stolen documents that show that an auto-maker know his vehicles were dangerous and defective. ” example you used.

    You can’t tell the difference between what the public might be interested in, as compared to what is in the public interest.

    “And BTW, it is up to the judgment of the publisher if a story is published or withheld in the public interest, not the DA or any other authority.”

    You are an idiot.

    You should want to arrange for immunity from prosecution before you publish illegally-obtained material.

    Or else you can be like Judith Miller – undoubtably a heroine of yours – and go to jail for your beliefs.

    Its a free country, you can make that choice.

  21. Glenn E. says:

    Strange I’ve yet to hear about any of this on network Tv news. It’s all earthquakes, volcanoes, and oil well fires. But for such a flap about a future iPhone gone missing. It’s only been an item here, and on other internet news sites. I don’t get cable. So I don’t know if CNBC or the FOXNEWS channel has covered it. And I haven’t heard Jimmy Kimmel mention it yet. So maybe there’s a news blackout, about it.


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