D.A. Withdraws Warrant in Gizmodo iPhone Prototype Case

A request by the San Mateo County District Attorney Office to withdraw its search warrant of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home was granted on Friday, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The warrant had been issued in relation to an investigation into a iPhone 4 prototype Gizmodo purchased and Apple later reported as stolen.

Gizmodo and Mr. Chen became the focus of a felony theft investigation after the self proclaimed blog posted articles, videos and photos of an iPhone 4 prototype ahead of the product announcement and launch. Gizmodo purchased the prototype claiming it had been lost in a bar and that they weren’t sure it belonged to Apple.

Local authorities executed a search warrant at Mr. Chen’s home and confiscated computers and other items as part of their criminal investigation. Gizmodo, however, claimed that it should be protected from investigation under California’s journalist shield law.

The order withdrawing the warrant doesn’t state why the DA’s office made the request.

The items seized from Mr. Chen’s home will be returned, but that doesn’t mean this is the end of the case. Authorities could subpoena the items they confiscated under the criminal search warrant, and returning the items doesn’t mean the case will be dropped.

“While the D.A.’s withdrawal of the April 23rd warrant is certainly a positive step, this likely isn’t the end of the matter… the police could (for example) attempt to subpoena the same material without running afoul of section 1524(g) and still proceed with their case,” the EFF said.