No Charges for Gizmodo in iPhone Prototype Case

The men who found and sold it were charged

Prosecutors are letting Gawker Media’s tech blog Gizmodo off the hook for buying an iPhone 4 prototype after it was found in a Redwood City, Calif., bar in March 2010.

San Mateo County Assistant District Attorney Morley Pitt said that charges would not be brought against former Gizmodo editor Jason Chen, the blogger who posted about the iPhone, or any of the site’s other employees, citing a California law that protects the confidentiality of journalists' sources.

“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 [the] type of phone it was and they were protected by the shield law,” Pitt said. “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.”

After Gizmodo posted images of the new iPhone, police raided Chen’s house and seized his computer, leading the blog and other media outlets to claim that the search had been illegal because state law prohibits the seizure of unpublished notes from journalists.

In a statement, Gawker Media said, “While we have always believed that we were acting fully within the law, it has inevitably been stressful for the editor concerned, Jason Chen, and we are glad that we can finally put this matter behind us.”

Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower, the men who found the iPhone and subsequently sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000, weren’t so lucky. Both were charged with misappropriation of lost property, while Wallower was also charged with possession of stolen property.

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