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Police Seize Computers From Gizmodo Editor 1204

Posted by Soulskill
from the stuff-just-got-real dept.
secretcurse writes "California police have served a search warrant and seized computers from Jason Chen, the Gizmodo editor who unveiled the 4th-generation iPhone to the world. Gawker Media's COO has replied claiming that the warrant was served illegally due to Mr. Chen's status as a journalist. The plot thickens..."
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Police Seize Computers From Gizmodo Editor

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  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:41PM (#31989590)

    enGadget is owned by Time Warner... they have lawyers, and those lawyers told them not to touch this story.

    Gawker apparently didn't check before the leaped... and Apple's got much bigger bucks than they do.

  • Re:Journalist? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:44PM (#31989656)

    Read the Gawker Media response... they're claiming that Jason Chen's home was a "newsroom" and therefore exempt from contempt changes and warrents. We'll see if this holds water when they try to get any evidence from this search kept away from the jury.

  • "journalist" (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:45PM (#31989660)

    Gawker media's COO has replied claiming that the warrant was served illegally due to Mr. Chen's status as a journalist.

    I didn't realize that being a journalist protected you from prosecution for knowingly purchasing stolen goods. This is not about protecting sources of information, this is buying a product that is known to belong to someone else.

  • Re:Journalist? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:49PM (#31989734) Journal

    Newspaper offices aren't exempt from crap. They're out of their minds. (disclaimer: sitting in a newspaper office right now)

    Historically, whenever a journalist has been jailed for not ratting out a source, the cops have pulled all their stuff right off their desks. There is no legal exemption just because you happen to work for a media outlet.

  • Re:Yea but (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@@@gmail...com> on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:49PM (#31989736) Homepage
    Too bad all that ad space was already sold when they ran the iphone story.
  • Just give us a name (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nobodyman (90587) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:50PM (#31989774) Homepage

    Apple was being too quiet last week. I knew the other shoe would drop, it was just a matter of time. If Chen is lucky, the police are really more interested in the identity of the thief (if they don't know it already).

    However, my guess is that the police are trying to build a strong case that Giz definitely knew it was stolen prior to paying $5000 for the device. Not sure who goes down in a situation like that: whether it's Jason Chen or Nick Denton.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#31989858) Homepage

    Do you think ANYONE is going to buy a 3G or 3GS iPhone in the next few months, with the "V4 is in final prototype, it has a much better screen, a flash, a front camera, etc" on everybody's lips?

    The value of the existing stock of iPhones easily dropped $50 a phone thanks to this, a price drop which would have been postponed by a month or two if this leak didn't happen.

    This is why apple is so leak paranoid: leaks like this really contribute to the Osborne Effect [wikipedia.org]

  • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:55PM (#31989876)

    No, but being a Journalist gives you the right to write about anything that comes across your desk. Apparently an iPhone did just that...

    Gizmodo paid for access to it, so that they could write the story and find out exactly what the device was.

    Gizmodo returned the device to Apple willingly without hassle.

    I'm pretty sure this isnt the first time a news story has "broke" in such manner.

  • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:55PM (#31989888) Journal
    Some mice have evidence, yes.

    I recall reading about a mouse that recorded (internally) what it did and could replay it later. Probably not the mouse that Chen owns, but hey, why not include the clause ? :)

    I'm also not sure why you think passwords have any greater protection than anything else when the police have a court-granted right to search, but hey, I'm not a lawyer either.

    Simon
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:57PM (#31989908)
    What theft would you be referring to, exactly? The cell phone was left unattended at a bar, and while the engineer who left it unattended may be incompetent, that does not mean that the person who retrieved it is guilty of thievery. This sounds like another case of Apple bullying journalists who obtain information about upcoming product releases to me, although it appears that some sort of political pressure was exerted this time (i.e. Apple pressured the police to seize this journalist's equipment).
  • Re:evidence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tekrat (242117) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:00PM (#31989966) Homepage Journal

    Better yet, did you read the inventory? Among other items, they "seized" a box of business cards. I can only imagine what horrible forms of evidence will be hiding there! Why, it might have his email address on them! Holy cow, better call CSI!!!

  • by dustin_0099 (877013) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:07PM (#31990100)
    People still believe the Osborne Effect???

    These days, it's a given that any tech gadget that comes out has a V.Next well under way.

    iPad 2 is already half way done. Nexus 3 is being written as we speak. Office 2012 is being worked on.
    If you are buying an iPhone today, your first question is "When did the last version come out?"

    The first segment of the wiki page is all about THE MYTH for intertube's sake!
  • Re:Journalist? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by theaveng (1243528) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:08PM (#31990118)

    I like Apple products (my Quadra was one of my favorite machines), but their publicity has really turned negative lately. There's this story about trying to accuse a journalist of stealing property (it was abandoned, therefore not stolen, plus he returned it to Apple).

    And then there's the story about a father in England(?) whose iPod started smoking and then blew up. Apple agreed to replace the iPod but only if the father agreed to muzzle his mouth & never speak about Apple again.

    Apple's starting to act like those corporations (Exxon-Mobile, Walmart, MS) that I hate.

  • by guspasho (941623) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:10PM (#31990162)

    How exactly can the device be considered stolen property?

    My understanding of the adventure of the lost iPhone 4G/HD is thus:
    1) Someone loses Apple property
    2) Someone else finds it
    3) Finder attempts to return it
    4) Apple rebuffs finder and does not attempt to recover or claim the property (at this point how can it be considered stolen???)
    5) Finder sells property to Gizmodo
    6) Gizmodo blabs about it
    7) Apple contacts Gizmodo and asks for their property back
    8) Gizmodo promtly returns property to Apple

  • Re:"journalist" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tenton (181778) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:15PM (#31990264)

    Since the finder of the phone did not follow the law, he/she could be convicted of a crime if charges are pressed.

    Which is true. Jason Chen, the Gizmodo jounalist, is not that person, though. They are trying to use his notes and communications(on his computer) to either implicate Gizmodo for this as well, and/or find out who the finder is. However, there is a California law that seems to block this (in Gizmodo's lawyer's opinion); we'll have to see what a judge says.

  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:17PM (#31990286)

    The only reason they would waste their time prosecuting Gizmodo or any of its editors would be pure intimidation. I mean, the story is simple:

    They didn't buy the phone itself. They bought the story. The finder wanted to return the phone to its rightful owner and couldn't confirm it was Apple and didn't trust that the bartender wouldn't just sell it once he realized it was valuable. When Gizmodo bought the story, he asked them to take on the task of returning the phone to it's rightful owner -- which they did. The phone was returned before the police were involved.

    Rather than entrusting the phone to a 3rd party such as the bartender at the bar where the phone was found, the finder believed a 3rd party like Gizmodo was more likely to be trustworthy and more likely to be able to ascertain the true owner. It's not an unreasonable assumption to have made.

    At any no time, as money was changing hands, did anyone believe that they owned the phone in question. Both parties understood the phone belonged to neither of them and that Gizmodo would take on the responsibility of returning the phone, which they did.

    Now here's your challenge as a prosecutor. Prove thats not true.

    Unless you can find video tape of Jason Chen accepting the phone and then exclaiming "Hell yeah, we totally own this phone now and do not intend to return it unless contacted by the lawyers of a large consumer device corporation. High Five!" then I suspect that's going to be a hard thing to prove. But of course, the standard IANAL disclaimer applies here.

  • by GameMaster (148118) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:18PM (#31990290)

    Actually, from what I understand, California law states that it is illegal for someone to find something off the street, take it as their own, and then sell it (in other words, what I've heard is that there is no "finders keepers" right in California, at least if you don't bother to let the police look for the true owner first). Supposedly, it becomes extra illegal if you have good reason to believe that it's owned by someone else but don't try to return it (of which there is, supposedly, no evidence in this case). As should be common sense, since it's illegal to sell something you found if you have reason to believe it belongs to someone then it's also illegal to buy something from someone when you have reason to believe they aren't the legal owner. In this case, both the person selling it and Gizmodo had every reason to believe that the phone was the rightful property of Apple. In fact, the only reason their story could be considered newsworthy was if it had left the possession of Apple unintentionally. It seems, to me, like a slam dunk that Gizmodo broke the law. They're trying to defend themselves by claiming that they have a right to gather news from anonymous sources based on a previous court case but this is totally different from the case I heard about. In the previous case I heard mentioned, the news agency only received information, not property and didn't even pay money for it. As far as I can see, both of those are major differences that make comparing the two cases like comparing apples and oranges. We'll see how this goes, but I wouldn't be surprised if they end up spending some time in California "pound me in the ass" prison.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:27PM (#31990452) Homepage Journal

    Just like corporations expect privacy, and individuals are told that we should have no expectation of privacy. Too bad we can sue TRW for providing every creditor in the world our "trade secrets".

    America has gone the wrong way. Even the tea party movement has it wrong. We don't need to fear and change the government, we need to fear and change the power corporations have over us.

  • Re:Journalist? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GameMaster (148118) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:31PM (#31990528)

    Heck, they may not even be looking for evidence of the source (though they probably are). All they need to be doing is looking for evidence to nail HIM for knowingly purchasing stolen property. They outright admit they spent $5000 for the phone and the whole article is based on the premise that Apple didn't intend to loose possession of the phone.

  • by Cyberllama (113628) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:35PM (#31990594)

    He'll say:

    1) The owner was unknown
    2) The bartender could not necessarily be trusted to return something he believed might be valuable.

    Instead of the bartender, a different 3rd party in the form of Gizmodo seemed like a better option. Gizmodo could definitely be trusted to return the phone to Apple (if it was indeed theirs) and they would have the resources to confirm that it was truely Apple's phone.

    In other words, rather than "stealing" it, he simply outsourced his duties as finder to a 3rd party -- much as if he'd left in the car of the bartender. Moreover, he didn't sell the phone itself, but rather the "story". Both he and Gizmodo knew full well neither owned the phone and that the plan was to return it -- and, for the record, the phone was returned before the police were involved.

    I'm not saying that's exactly how it went down, just that there's clearly more than one side to this. It's not as cut and dry as you say.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:46PM (#31990796)
    You have proof that the owner refused to claim it? The thief didn't even try to contact the owner. Calling the tech support line of the company who made the product does not even come close to trying to return the phone to the person whose name they knew.. They should have: A) left the phone at the bar like any sane person would. Would you leave a bar with someone else's iPhone? -or- B) If returning it to apple was the goal, how about driving to apple and returning the phone, instead of calling some call center. Wasn't it lost in a bar near cupertino? Instead they chose C) profit. Because they are thieves.
  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Monday April 26, 2010 @07:56PM (#31991932) Journal

    You forgot to read this part:

    but this provision shall not impair or affect the ability of any government officer or employee, pursuant to otherwise applicable law, to search for or seize such materials, if--

    (1) there is probable cause to believe that the person possessing such materials has committed or is committing the criminal offense to which the materials relate...

    Since there is probable cause to believe Chen received stolen property, the San Mateo County Sheriff is in the clear.

  • by Sparr0 (451780) <sparr0@gmail.com> on Monday April 26, 2010 @08:32PM (#31992472) Homepage Journal

    Apple is a corporation. It has personhood, and if any part of the company disclaimed ownership of the device then the whole company did so. The fact that its left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing is their fault, not his.

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:03PM (#31992816)

    The person who found it repeatedly tried to contact Apple, and they ignored him. If he'd kept it for himself, you still might have a point, but he didn't. He handed it over to the people best able to get the attention of the owner.

    No excuse. All he had to do was put the phone in an envelope, address it to Apple Computer, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014, and off it goes. He didn't contact "Apple", he contacted Apple customer services, who get calls from hundreds of people everyday in various degrees of confusion. If someone calls "I have your phone, and it doesn't work, I want to return it to you", how on earth are they supposed to guess that someone has found a phone that isn't _made_ by Apple, but one that is actually _owned_ by Apple?

    That phone call wasn't "contacting the owner", that was an attempt to create an alibi and excuse for not returning the phone.

  • by GasparGMSwordsman (753396) on Monday April 26, 2010 @09:40PM (#31993236)

    Jason Chen appears to be in a "What did you know and who told you it?" situation where he isn't supplying the identity of his source... because this isn't a source of information but a source of stolen goods.

    Among the many problems with your statement are the following:

    1) The items in question were not stolen. According to the news coverage, not only did the person who found the phone, FIND it in a public place (which by definition can not be a theft, at least in the State of California). He then attempted to give it to Apple. Apple then said "not ours, we don't want it."

    2) Under California State law, journalistic actions have many protections. The State can not force a journalist to reveal information pertaining to a source. The State can not confiscate goods relating to the distribution of news. The State can not prosecute a journalist who acted in the interest of journalism who acted good faith (with some non-related exceptions).

    Lastly it does amuse me greatly that everyone who states "XXX person committed a felony by purchasing stolen goods" has just committed libel. Congratulations, you have now given XXX the option of filing suit against you for defamation of character with one of very few acts that do not require proof of monetary harm. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation [wikipedia.org]

  • by Groo Wanderer (180806) <charlie AT semiaccurate DOT com> on Monday April 26, 2010 @10:04PM (#31993472) Homepage

    I have tried to deal with Apple on a number of occasions, every time it was not something I HAD to do, but something I felt obliged to do. I dutifully called them up, recorded the process, recorded the messages I left (try to get a real person there, I dare you!), and gave them more then enough time to get back to me (several days). I also left the same message on a number of relevant voice mails.

    Apple just won't deal with you, they are Apple, and you are beneath them. If you are not a known kiss-up, they won't return your calls, emails, or anything else. Try, don't try, it doesn't matter, they won't get back to you. Insiders have told me that this is policy, not a fluke.

    What did I contact them about? This:
    http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1049921/inquirer-confirms-apple-macbook-pros-have-nvidia-bad-bump-material [theinquirer.net]
    Nope, no calls back. Could have saved them a big black eye though.

                      -Charlie

  • by PanzStrata (1768658) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @12:35AM (#31994816)

    The guy who found the phone supposedly called the Apple tech support line, whose operators didn't know anything about this supposed phone, and could reasonably assume he was a prank caller or a crazy. You can't reasonably conclude that Apple refused to claim the phone, because the people inside Apple that knew about it were not contacted.

    In support of this particular statement, I have a friend who works for the Apple Support Line (and while I can't say this is how all the Apple support lines work, it is likely they do), the persons you speak with are not Apple employees, they work for a contracting company that specializes and runs many different call centers for many different companies. The persons that work the support lines know as much about a top secret iPhone prototype as the rest of us.

    In addition to this, besides the police the individual had several other options available besides selling it to Gizmodo. The following took just a couple minutes to find on Google:

    http://www.apple.com/legal/contacts.html - this website contains several ways of contacting apple that likely would have led to the safe, confidential and legal return to apple.

    Google lists the number for Apple's Corporate Headquarters at 1 Infinite Loop Cupertino, CA 95014-2083 (408) 996-1010

    Apple Public Relations: (408) 974-2042

    those are just a few contacts that some quick searches on Google brought back. Not a lot of effort would probably have gotten the phone back to apple without anyone being the wiser.

  • by Spazztastic (814296) <`spazztastic' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @08:14AM (#31997604)
    Some of their content isn't even that spectacular. They went around CES turning off TVs [gizmodo.com] and were promptly banned from future ones.
  • by pacergh (882705) on Tuesday April 27, 2010 @01:20PM (#32001848)

    I don't throw around legal terms as if I know what they mean. I do know what they mean.

    Unlike you, I'm not a paralegal. I'm a lawyer. Not a California lawyer, but a lawyer in another state.

    You may think you know what it means, but all you're doing is showing why paralegals aren't attorneys.

    I'm sorry you're embarrassed for being shown up so thoroughly that you have to sling insults around. But, let me break it down for your paralegal mind:

    The "bold" section of what you cite places a reasonableness standard on the finder. The question is whether a reasonable person in the finder's situation would have acted as the finder did in trying to find the owner and give him back his property.

    You may remember from your expansive legal background that this is the so-called "reasonable person" standard.

    The question is whether the evidence at hand supports a finding by the jury that the finder did or did not act reasonably in trying to contact the owner. The burden will likely be beyond a reasonable doubt.

    You, in your paralegal mind, seem to think this is a simple case of matching facts to elements. It is not.

    Each fact will carry its own weight for each juror. Clearly, if you were a juror, you would put a lot of weight on the finder's attempt to contact Apple. To you, that satisfies the statutory requirement.

    Obviously, others disagree with you. Others believe he should have called the bar. Or given it to the bar staff. Or given it to the police.

    What is clear is that, based on the sparse facts we have, there is sufficient evidence on both sides to support the two possible conclusions: (1) he acted reasonably, (2) he acted unreasonably.

    Which is why a potential charge is likely to be sustained. To translate for your paralegal mind: they could take this to a jury to decide.

    So, while this guy has arguments that he did act reasonably, a prosecutor also has arguments that he did not act reasonably.

    I hope this helps you understand WTF you're talking about, since obviously you didn't before.

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