DA Won’t Charge Gizmodo for Stolen iPhone 4 Prototype

Burglar iPhone
Prosecutors for San Mateo County in California announced Wednesday that they would not be filing criminal charges against Gizmodo or its editors for its role in the now-infamous case of a stolen/lost iPhone 4 prototype. The DAs in charge of the case did announce they were filing misdemeanor charges against the two people who stole/found the prototype and then sold it to Gizmodo.

The situation erupted in April of 2010, two months before Apple went on to unveil the iPhone 4 at its 2010 World Wide Developers Conference. An Apple engineer had the device at a bar in Redwood City, CA, where it was then lost and found, or stolen, as the case may be, by someone the police have identified as Brian Hogan, age 22.

Mr. Hogan then sent photos of the device to Engadget, but followed that up by selling it to Gizmodo. Gizmodo then posted a multitude of photos and information about the device.

Not surprisingly, Apple tried to make Gizmodo pay for this and filed a complaint with the police. The Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team, a task force put together from several police departments, then seized computers belonging to Jason Chen, the editor who bought the prototype on behalf of Gizmodo and posted the coverage.

The police searched those computers, but the warrant used in the search was eventually withdrawn at the request of prosecutors.

Wednesday’s announcement from the San Mateo County DAs included two pieces of information. The first was that Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower, age 28, of Emeryville, were being charged with a misdemeanor count of misappropriation of lost property. Ms. Wallower will also be charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of stolen property.

The second part of the announcement concerns Gizmodo and Jason Chen, where the DAs wrote, “After a consideration of all of the evidence, it was determined that no charges would be filed against employees of Gizmodo.”

Gawker Media, the owner of Gizmodoreleased its own statement:

We are pleased that the District Attorney of San Mateo County, Steven Wagstaffe, has decided, upon review of all of the evidence, that no crime was committed by the Gizmodo team in relation to its reporting on the iPhone 4 prototype last year. 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.

We should note that Gawker Media claimed, “no crime was committed,” but what the DAs actually wrote was that “no charges would be filed.”