Lost iPhone Case Heats Up: Cops Seize Gizmodo Editor's Computers

By Smriti Rao | April 26, 2010 6:04 pm

jason-chen-iphoneTech website Gizmodo’s Jason Chen may have scored the industry’s biggest scoop this month, with the exclusive on Apple’s next generation iPhone 4G, but nothing could have prepared him for the aftermath.

This morning we reported on rumors that the police were investigating Gizmodo’s purchase, for $5,000, of the lost iPhone. Now, Gizmodo has revealed that Chen’s home was broken into by California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team last Friday. The cops, part of a task force that investigates crimes related to high-tech businesses, proceeded to seize four computers and two servers from Chen’s home.

The cops were in possession of a warrant from a San Mateo judge, but Gawker Media, the company that owns Gizmodo, claims that the cops’ warrant was invalid. Gawker argues that the search-and-seize action violates California’s journalist shield law.

In his original scoop, Chen dished the details on Apple’s upcoming phone using a prototype that the company bought from the mysterious person who found the device, which had been left behind in a bar by an Apple employee. Gizmodo then coughed up the $5,000 to get its hands on the phone–which has since been returned to Apple after the company’s lawyers formally claimed it and asked for it back.

The seizure of Chen’s computers took place on Friday night. The saga began when editor Jason Chen and his wife returned home after dinner at 9:45 pm to find their house full of police officers. The cops had broken open the front door and had seized four computers, two servers, an iPad, and other hardware from Chen’s home. They proffered a search warrant when Chen asked for it.

Gaby Darbyshire, COO of Gawker Media LLC, promptly hit back at the police department with this letter, stating the search warrant to remove the computers was invalid under section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code as Chen was a journalist working from home. Therefore, his writing and equipment was protected by law, writes The New York Times:

“Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist,” she wrote in a letter to San Mateo County authorities on Saturday. “Jason is a journalist who works full time for our company,” she continued, adding that he works from home, his “de facto newsroom.”

“It is abundantly clear under the law that a search warrant to remove these items was invalid. The appropriate method of obtaining such materials would be the issuance of a subpoena,” Ms. Darbyshire continued.

Nick Denton, the founder and president of Gawker Media, told The Times that the case may get to some fundamental questions about blogging: “Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out.”

Related Content:
Discoblog: The Saga of the Lost iPhone May End With Criminal Charges
80beats: Apple’s Lawyers Claim the iPhone Prototype That Was Left in a Bar
Discoblog: So a Guy Walks Into a Bar… and Discovers Apple’s Latest iPhone
80beats: iPad Arrives—Some Worship It, Some Critique It, HP Tries to Kill It
Discoblog: Apple App Store Backs Off Rejection of Pulitzer-Winning Political Cartoonist
Discoblog: Weird iPhone Apps (our growing compendium of the oddest apps out there)

Image: Gizmodo

  • Jewish Jon

    IN REGARDS TO THE GIZMODO.COM EVENT OF JASON CHEN GETTING RAIDIED!

    I FIND IT VERY VERY SUSPICIOUS THAT THE EVENT EVEN OCCURRED. ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY ARE ONLY TELLING US TODAY WHEN APPARENTLY IT HAPPENED FRIDAY EVENING. SEVERAL SOURCES ARE CLAIMING THIS A RUSE STATING “JASON CHEN, IS JUST CREATING MORE ATTENTION FOR HIMSELF BY PROVIDING FALSIFIED DOCUMENTS THAT ARE EASILY OBTAINABLE AND FAKED FROM THE SUPPOSED POLICE COUNTY’S WEBSITE!, SOURCES ALSO STATE THAT IF THIS EVENT ACTUALLY HAPPENED IT WOULD BE ALL OVER THE NEWS AND WE WOULD ALL BE ALLOWED TO LEAVE COMMENTS, HOWEVER THE COMMENTS ON GIZMODO AND HERE HAVE BEEN BLOCKED SO YOU CAN NOT COMMENT ON THE STORY!!”

    FAKE FAKE FAKE

    I JUST LOST ALL MY FAITH IN GIZMODO.COM

  • Ted

    When you find property, it still does not belong to you. The law requires you make a good faith effort to return it to it’s rightful owner. Failure to do so is equivalent to theft. A lost item is not fair game and Jason should have tried to return the phone before making headlines.

  • ccs

    Jewish, you seem to disregard the amount of money and power Apple can throw at this. Aside from publicity, what would it gain Apple to pull a stunt like this? Nothing. And do you suppose that Gizmodo is so wrapped up in themselves to actually risk pulling a stunt that could easily be verified my checking whether such a warrant was issued or charges were brought up? I think you’re a bit short sighted. Steve Wozniak relates a similar story about how an Apple employee was fired for showing him, a fellow Apple employee, an iPad outside of the security zone after midnight on the launch of the iPad. If this is true, this just fits into exactly what i expect from Apple.

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