Judge Unseals Gizmodo iPhone Warrant: Device Found & Sold, Apple Talks to Police, More

A California judge unsealed documents used to obtain a search warrant in the lost iPhone 4G prototype that Gizmodo purchased in April. The documents offer great detail into what local police said happened the night the device was lost and found, Apple’s role in pressing police to investigate, and the roles of the people that got the device, a roommate who was frightened of being implicated, e-mail exchanges between Gizmodo editors and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, and the news that Gizmodo’s teardown of the device broke it.

Quick Facts

  • The device was damaged during Gizmodo’s teardown.
  • Apple claimed to police that the device was invaluable.
  • Brian Hogan’s roommate contacted Apple security after he used her computer to try and rescuscitate the device after Apple remotely wiped it.
  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs personally contacted Gizmodo editor Brian Lam to ask for the device to be returned.
  • Apple executives and security personnel met with the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) to encourage police investigation.
  • Mr. Hogan attempted to hide his computer and other evidence that he had the prototype with the help of a third roommate.
  • That third roommate hid a flash drive with photos of the device under a bush and lost a serial number sticker the two had kept from the device in a gas station parking lot.


Starting at the beginning, the device was not found by Brian Hogan, the man who sold it to Gizmodo, but rather by an “intoxicated” person at the Gourmet Haus Staudt beer garden and steak house in Redwood City, CA. That person mistakenly thought the device, which was housed in a case intended to make it look like an iPhone 3GS, belonged to Mr. Hogan, and gave it to him.

According to testimony entered by police, Mr. Hogan waited around to find the real owner, but failing that, took the device home. It was there that he discovered the case disguise, saw that it was likely a prototype, and began rooting through the apps on the device.

The next day, Mr. Hogan and his roommates discovered the device was no longer functioning, and thought that Apple might have remotely wiped it. He then attached the device to both his computer and his roommate’s, Katherine Martinson, in an effort to reinstall an OS onto the device through iTunes.

Shockingly, that didn’t work.

The Price is Right

Mr. Hogan then began shopping the device out to various tech blogs, as has been reported elsewhere. Gizmodo was willing to pay for it, and did so. The site then posted videos and photographs of the prototype, and all hell broke loose.

According to the documents, Gizmodo paid Mr. Hogan $5,000, and promised him a bonus in June if Apple announced the device as the next version of the iPhone. Mr. Hogan had a box with $8,500 in it, money that was supposedly in payment for the device, but the documents specify that it was unknown where the additional $2,500 came from (note the actual difference is $3,500).

The Roommate Connection

It was then that Ms. Martinson contacted Apple’s security department concerned about being implicated in the situation after her roommate connected the device to her computer, allegedly without her permission. According to the court filings unsealed Friday, she told Apple what was going on, who told the police, who then questioned Ms. Martinson, too.

According to her testimony, she had encouraged her roommate not to sell the device as it could negatively effect the career of Gray Powell, the Apple engineer who lost the device. In a classy move, Mr. Hogan told her, “Sucks for him. He lost his phone. Shouldn’t have lost his phone.”

Ms. Martinson told police that evidence of Mr. Hogan’s attempts to negotiate with tech blogs over the device was likely on his computer, and when Mr. Hogan and another roommate removed that computer, she told police they were doing so.

Cops & Robbers

That resulted in the REACT detective who prepared the police documents immediately going to Mr. Hogan’s father’s house, where he had gone. Mr. Hogan folded like a wet dollar bill and began cooperating. In the meanwhile, the third roommate, Thomas Warner, had taken the computer, a flash drive, a flash card, and the above-mentioned stickers and hid them.

The computer was at a church, the drive and flash card were hidden under a bush, and the stickers had fallen out of his wallet when he went to pay for gas at a gas station.

All were recovered, and the police then went to execute their search warrant for Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home, where a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, various hard drives, thumb drives, media servers, a Think Pad, an AirPort base station, and other devices were all confiscated.

And Sundry

Apple also turned over the prototype to police, where it was entered as evidence. According to Apple, the device was damaged during its big adventure, specifically listing:

  • Broken ribbon cable
  • One screw was inserted into the wrong location and caused an electrical short
  • Back plate snaps were broken
  • Stripped screws

You can find the whole sordid tale in the document embedded below.