Gizmodo editor escapes charges in leaked iPhone prototype case

Gizmodo editor escapes charges in leaked iPhone prototype case
Jason Chen

(CBS/AP) - Prosecutors said Wednesday that they will not bring charges against a tech blogger who bought an Apple iPhone prototype after it was found at a bar in March 2010 in a case that ignited a First Amendment debate.

Charges were not filed against Gizmodo.com's Jason Chen or other employees thanks to California's shield law, which protects the confidentiality of journalists' sources, San Mateo County Assistant District Attorney Morley Pitt said.

"The difficulty we faced is that Mr. Chen and Gizmodo were primarily, in their view, engaged in a journalistic endeavor to conduct an investigation into the phone and type of phone it was, and they were protected by the shield law," said Pitt.

"We concluded it is a very gray area. They do have a potential claim and this was not the case with which we were going to push the envelope."

Chen reportedly bought the prototype from two men who found it after an Apple Inc. employee left it in a Redwood City bar. After the website posted images of the prototype, Chen's house was raided and his computer seized.

The website and other media organizations objected, saying the raid was illegal because state law prohibits the seizure of unpublished notes from journalists.

"We feel there was not a crime to begin with and still believe that, and are pleased the DA's office has an appropriate respect for the First Amendment," said Thomas J. Nolan Jr., a lawyer for Chen.

Prosecutors did, however, file misdemeanor charges against Brian Hogan, 22, and Sage Wallower, 28, the two men who found and sold the device.

Hogan was charged with one count of misappropriation of lost property; Wallower with misappropriation of lost property, and possession of stolen property. Each faces a maximum of a year in county jail, plus fines and probation.

"Clearly the phone was left in the bar, and clearly Mr. Hogan took the phone and knew what he had," Pitt said. "Shortly after that he made the wrong choice, and instead of returning the phone to the owner or to Apple he turned to a friend of his and concocted the scheme to sell the phone to Gizmodo."

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April 27, 2010 - Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen's House Raided: Felony Charges to Follow iPhone Scoop?