back to article Cops raid Gizmodo editor in pursuit of iPhone 4G 'felony'

Gizmodo editor Jason Chen has been raided by Silicon Valley's computer crime force in hot pursuit of the case of the missing iPhone prototype. According to a bulletin published by Gizmodo today, they broke down the front door to gain entry, and departed some hours later with a truck containing Chen's computer equipment. The …


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  1. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Didn't he call Apple?

    I remember reading he called up Apple and they refused to believe he had the phone.

    If he didn't response to the letter from Apple then that's his own fault.

    1. Franklin

      Didn't call Apple.

      Nope, he didn't call Apple; the person he bought it from did. Apple's front-line phone staff didn't know what to do about it, so the person who found it sold it to Chen.

      The problem is that California makes buying found property a crime. Add to that the fact that Chen knew who the owner was, and, well...

      1. Solomon Grundy

        Not Exactly

        California law states that the failure to return found property is unlawful if the finder has no knowledge of the "proper owner" or the ability to identify said "proper owner".

        The law does not apply if the finder attempts to identify the owner and fails. This massive legal loophole is a he said/she said scenario which is almost irresolvable in court. This whole mess is an Apple funded jihad and it sucks.

        1. Adam T

          Re: Not Exactly

          "The law does not apply if the finder attempts to identify the owner and fails"

          But they did identify the owner. The finder identified him, and obviously told Chen who he was (Chen claims, the iPhone was bricked when he received it - how else could he know Grey was the owner?).

          Besides, Cal law also says hand it in to the cops if you can't contact the owner, so that's a double-fail.

    2. Richard 118

      First line support

      He called first level support who have no idea about prototype iPhones. That is not trying to contact the owner.

      He had the NAME of the engineer who lost it from his Facebook page. He can't even argue that he forgot that, because he told Gizmodo what it was.

      He could have phone Apple and asked to speak to the Engineer in person, did he do that, no!

      He feebly phoned tech support, which is probably based somewhere else, in an effort to cover his ass.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    It's all a bit stupid really.

    Gizmodo have not hidden any of the details of the said alleged felony.

    What do they need all his equipment for?

    The details are a matter of public record inasmuch as the Internet is public.

    The question is whether or not what they did was illegal, which is think is open for debate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nope - standard process

      If we assume the warrant was legal, they have the right to drag anything along that they think will help with their investigation (AFAIK). If you feel that gives them too much leeway, well, that depends on how you feel about the alleged crime.

      I must admit I'm not feeling sorry for Gizmodo here - to me they committed two crimes after each other. First buying the device after it was known it was found, secondly by naming the guy who lost the device. That was low - there was no need for that.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      I will try to keep this simple, as you seem a little bewildered


    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Find the Perp

      I assume they're trying to find out who took the phone originally, hence they took a box of business cards from Chen as well as his computer equipment. Gawker have also citing California 'Shield Laws' to try and protect the source and their staff.

  3. Flabbagaster
    Thumb Down

    so did they found the to-be-jesus-phone

    So after Steve Jobs has satisfy his power of the godphone, they still don't have the *&^%%#^#* phone.

    *&^%%#&# Jobs is a dbag as well as the followers. Carelessness on your part does not constitute a felony and "stolen" claims on another person.

    1. Malcolm 1

      Already returned

      I think Gizmodo already returned the 4G iPhone to Apple after they'd finished analysing it. Allegedly the finder had previously attempted to return it to Apple but was rebuffed by Apple support who refused to believe it was a legitimate prototype device, instead assuming that it was merely a cheap rip-off.

      I believe the issue here is that it is illegal in California to buy something if you know that it is not the property of the seller.

      Smacks a bit of sour grapes on Apple's part to me.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RE: Already returned

        "Smacks a bit of sour grapes on Apple's part to me."

        I refer you to your previous sentence "it is illegal in California to buy something if you know that it is not the property of the seller".

        Apple are well within their rights. The story about it being "left in a bar" may be exactly that, a story. It could easily have been sneakily nicked from a pocket or something. People can't just "find" things and sell them on. If they could then I'd "find" patio tables and BBQs just lying around in people's gardens all the time. I might even move up to "finding" cars in the street ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      English. It's hard.

      "So after Steve Jobs has satisfy his power of the godphone"

      I see. And what does that mean, exactly?

    3. Franklin

      Um...actually, it does.

      "Carelessness on your part does not constitute a felony and "stolen" claims on another person."

      Actually, in this case, it does. The whole thing took place in California. Under California state law, § 2080 - 2082, keeping, buying, or selling found property is in fact a crime.

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        now, what would happen..

        .. if I stole the found property off the finder? It's not his, so it's not really theft, and I didn't find it, so it's not holding on to found property :-).

      2. Originone

        Are they investigating the finder?

        "Under California state law, § 2080 - 2082, keeping, buying, or selling found property is in fact a crime."

        In that case the finder is as culpable of breaking the law for selling it as Gizmodo are for buying it. Any report that the police have kicked down the finders door too? or maybe they are looking for who the finder is in Chen's computer so they can kick his door in at a later date?

    4. Anonymous Coward

      What you talking bout Willis?

      "So after Steve Jobs has satisfy his power of the godphone, they still don't have the *&^%%#^#* phone."

      Eh? Didn't understand that at all!

      "Carelessness on your part does not constitute a felony and "stolen" claims on another person."

      Perhaps not.

      Knowingly handling or trading stolen goods is likely to get you a time in chokey though, isn't it?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    He should have offered it to Apple

    As in

    "Hi got you prototype phone down here, want to pick it up (in bits!)"

    Don't know who the guy was how sold me it but he was a old guy, with grey hair, kept saying how good it was and he didn't look very well!

  5. Chris 211

    I hope he rots in hell!

    Jason Chen is a criminal and no apparent 'rubbish' about being an internet hack should put him above the law. I read the other posts and its clear that GIZMODO/Jason Chen is a criminal due to knowingly buying stolen goods. The person who sold Jason Chen the iphone is also a criminal having sold him a stolen item by finding. The law is clear, you make reasonable effort to contact the OWNER not the manufacturer (The owner is the one entrusted with the device). If you cant the item is to be left with the police, in the UK if the owner does not claim the item the finder can claim the item! Why do some sections of society think they are above the law? Hacks, police nobody is above the law! Send him down!

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Umm, not yet..

      .. his actions may be a crime, but he isn't a criminal until a judge says so. IANAL, but this could mean that you've just libelled him and he could come after you for defamation, which I would find entertainingly ironic.

      Yes, he's an idiot and since he published the name of the chap who lost it he's not in my good books either and he'd probably deserves a fine but he bought *found* goods, not *stolen* goods, there is a distinction.

      Now take your medicine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So close...

        ...well, not really; "Yes, he's an idiot..." Do you not realise that you are committing the very same misdemeanour? Of course anyone with a modicum of legal education knows that in defamation (not sure of the precedents on defamation in website comments--slander is more likely, but that's moot) cases, the burden of evidence can be shifted to the plaintiff; ie Chen would have to prove that he wasn't indeed 'an idiot'.

        Another point, that you can be forgiven for missing, is that whilst under investigation for a crime, the defendant usually cannot sue for defamation; they can generally only do that after the case has been brought and heard. If the case hasn't been brought, it'd be inadvisable in this instance to pursue it, as the plaintiff would probably have to prove that he wasn't a criminal and the courts would take that literally (hasn't committed a crime), and could end up potentially indicting himself. Oops! A case dropped doesn't prove innocence,.

        >"...he bought *found* goods, not *stolen* goods, there is a distinction" and as stated time and again--did you miss it or simply chose to ignore it? Under the laws of the state of California a crime *may* have been committed. Chen seemingly bought an item with the knowledge that it had been found, it was not the property of the seller. This, in the Golden State, is illegal as it constitutes theft. Whether of not the seller did as he claimed and attempted to return the item is moot--I'm certain that their actions will be deemed 'unreasonable' (no, phoning a call centre or gloating in an Apple store does not constitute reasonable effort; handing it into the police does). Gawker Media are also trying to hide behind laws designed to protect journalist's sources--this may explain why Chen is being targeted so vigorously.

        Next time, understand the implications of what is being discussed , and try not to indite yourself before dishing out your medicine.

        1. John I'm only dancing

          Fair comment defence

          It has recently been established in the UK that calling someone an idiot, is actually fair comment on forum, and as El Reg is a UK site, Jason Chen would have to sue for defamation in the UK courts and it would be immediately thrown out.

          Also in the UK, we have a criminal law about receiving stolen goods, which this item was. In all ways, Jason Chen is an idiot for not checking out his legal position.

          I would also like to say, while I like Apple computers, I will not be purchasing the iPhone, iPad et al, I think in whatever incarnation, they are only there for technological half wits to say 'look what i've got.' I know that's a fact because I work with quite a few of them.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        RE: Umm, not yet..

        "Yes, he's an idiot and since he published the name of the chap who lost it he's not in my good books either and he'd probably deserves a fine but he bought *found* goods, not *stolen* goods, there is a distinction."

        Yes, but it's not as simple as "found != stolen".

        He bought property which he knew did not beling to the seller.

        Once he found out who owned it, he spread the person's identity all over the internet BUT he made no attempt to contact the owner to return the phone.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hope he rots in hell!

      Rots in hell?! And I think you'll find that the owner is Apple - you know, the corporation that, erm, *owns* the phone - who also got value for money from the police, showing that the Corporate States of America is as healthy as it ever was.

      So the guy eyes a scoop and the phone takes a bit of a round trip before being returned to the aloof *owner*? Better that than it never being seen again as the "finder" fences it to someone with less honest intentions.

      Sheesh! Get yourself another hobby or something - the Apple fanboy thing is turning you into a Daily Mail columnist.

      1. Quxy

        Yep, the Corporate States of America... healthier than ever. I'm sure that REACT was falling over itself in its eagerness to knock down Jason Chen's door, although the wink from Steve probably didn't hurt.

        Unfortunately, Mr Chen has been more than a little injudicious, and will be very lucky indeed if he stays out of jail: California is really not a good place to go offending big high-tech businesses...

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I hope he rots in hell!

        "Get yourself another hobby or something - the Apple fanboy thing is turning you into a Daily Mail columnist."

        Umm, he just wrote the facts about the case. He never at any time expressed any opinion about Apple's products...

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: I hope he rots in hell!

          "Umm", he hopes that someone "rots in hell" because a corporation didn't get its stuff back in a timely fashion. Sounds like a fanboy to me.

          FAIL? Yes, you know it so well.

      3. rob miller

        theft charge still sounds a bit flakey...

        "So the guy eyes a scoop and the phone takes a bit of a round trip before being returned to the aloof *owner*?"

        Guy finds phone, works out what it is. Does he rifle through all the personal data on it to find owner? Haven't actually read that as a confirmed fact anywhere, and Facebook app to facebook page sounds a bit tenuous esp. on a lab toy. Was the person in possession of the phone the owner? Apple Dev Prototype, probably Apple would not think so... Give it to the bartender ? hmmmm, maybe but will s/he understand the significance of the item as the finder has and really make sure it gets where it should? And what was the person carrying it doing with it outside of Apple Labs anyway? Definitely the one who dropped it will be freaking out if they borrowed it against the rules, so what to do? Really, seems like this is Apple's toy...

        Ok, call Apple ... "piss off mate, doesn't sound like one of ours. No, you can't talk to Steve about it.. <click>."

        F it, this seems like a big deal, but can't find the right people to listen, and gotta get back to work.. Tech blogs oughta care... hmmm, Endg might be interested, but Gizm will give $5000 finders fee and take over returning to the right people for sure. sorted.

        So Gizm does go through the personal data, does call the guy, does get referred to Apple legal, does say "how do we know its really yours, please put that in writing", does return the phone.

        Disassembled, photographed, reassembled, spread photos all over the web while in their possession? Yes, but law doesn't appear to mention that, looks like gotta give it back in ostensibly the same condition as found. Law doesn't appear to say "get it back to the owner in the smartest, most efficient way possible and don't be assholes about it or take advantage of the situation while you're at it".

        Corporate secrets issues and journalistic options around that as mentioned are some other question, but nowhere does anyone seem to say that Gizm intended to keep the device from the rightful owner(s).

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Rotting in hell...

      is a bit much, don't you think? Even prison time would be a bit harsh. Community service (picking up litter around the Apple campus perhaps?) and a hefty fine would fit the crime; perhaps even a public admission of culpability. Perhaps laying off the coffee would be advisable...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    oh dear

    I wonder he had any pr0n on his drives :D

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge


      .. he has now ..

      (evil grin)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not a betting man, but I'd say that..

    ...the odds of Jason Chen being invited to the 4G launch seem to have lengthened slightly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the plus side

      Maybe someone from El-Reg will get his seat?

  8. MacRat

    Theft is Theft

    How can this be a surprise?

    You blog about how you paid for stolen property and the police investigate. (And no, making up a story about how it was "found" on a bar stool does not make it legal. Go try selling a car that you "found" on the street and see if the police care.)

    It has nothing to do with Apple.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Apples and Oranges

      There's a difference... a found prototype phone is not grand theft. A car would be. Any cop would care more about a stolen car than a phone prototype.

      The better comparison is protecting trade secrets. That's when a prototype phone becomes more valuable than a car. From the Economic Espionage Act:

      "Whomever knowingly... receives, buys, or possesses a trade secret, knowing the same to have been stolen or appropriated, obtained, or converted without authorization;"

      I think that this would definetly apply.

  9. maajka
    Jobs Horns

    What a waste of money...

    Don't they have anything better to do?! I'm sure Jobs likes this one though.

    1. Chris 211

      @What a waste of money..

      Cops, what follow up on crime, stolen goods. How dare they do there job!

  10. Paul 87

    Theft by finding?

    I'm not sure about US law, but in the UK there's certainly a viable prosecution for "theft by finding", simply put it's still stealing (or recieving stolen property), even if you find it on the street (buy it off a bloke who found it on the street).

    All in all, he's been pretty silly and all this story shows is the legal wangling you expect from the US courts system.

  11. Oninoshiko

    if i where a betting person, I would put money on....

    "Possession of stolen goods" is most likely what he is a suspect for, and frankly im suprised it took them this long. Collecting evidence that he commited the crime (cameras, computers, ideally the phone) by exicuting a search warrant would certainly be expected. The likelyhood of this being overtured is quite low, as i beleave a search warrent has to be signed by a judge (who is generally considered qualified to settle matters of law like this (juries are only for settling matters of fact)).

    I think Mr. Chen is going to find the "but I'm a journalist so I can brake any law I want with no consiquence" defense just doesn't hold up. I'll have to keep an eye on this.

    1. Bleepme
      Paris Hilton

      As Douglas Adams said...

      All property is theft, therefore theft is property, therefore the phone is his.

      (OK it wasn't Douglas Adams who said the first part)

  12. Thomas 4

    To our Californian readers....

    First one to send a tip off to the cops saying Chen has a 4G iPhone hidden up his ass gets a free pint. You get get another if you manage to get photos of the ensuing cavity search.

  13. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Well, he did have that one coming

    Retrieve 4G phone - check

    Stiff, loud talk with ex birthday boy with hangover, no Alka Seltzers allowed - check

    Getting journalist in deep sh*t - check

    Steve Job's revenge list? There's an app for that...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      For a chap that's banding around accusations of libel...

      you're not very good at identifying when you are doing it, are you?! Or, like Chen, do you believe the rules don't apply to you?

    2. rcdicky


      There's a post like this on EVERY Apple article...

      It wasn't funny the first time, it's not funny now

  14. Joe H.

    @AC, I'm not a betting man, but I'd say that.. #

    50,000 Quatloos on Jason Chen NOT being invited to the 4G launch.

    60,000 Quatloos on Jason Chen being charged, convicted and imprisoned by the California authorities.

    30,000 Quatloos on Jason Chen escaping the above with only probation.

    1. Steve the Cynic

      @Joe H.

      Sorry, but I don't bet *against* certainties.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    State double standards

    Of course you have to turn it into the police. After all only the state can sell found property.

    1. James 139


      thats the State selling confiscated and found property that hasnt been claimed?

      Although Id actually be suprised if there was any effort put into locating owners of items, after all, if youve lost something or had something stolen, reporting it to the police might eventually reunite you with it.

  16. Stuart Dole
    Gates Horns

    Jobs wins!

    Hey everybody - no one gets it yet: all this fuss just continues to generate buzz for the 4G iPhone! Free publicity! And it goes on for weeks! Jobs is a genius.

    1. ratfox

      Well, Gizmodo wins too

      Gizmodo is getting advertisement like never before, and I am sure that Jason Chen himself is not regretting for a minute whatever it was that he did. As an aspirant journalist, he will likely consider it as a badge of honor. I doubt very much he will end up in jail, especially since he did eventually give back the iPhone.

  17. Peter 39

    grey area

    I wonder if Chen claimed his home office space as business premises on his last tax return? That would help his case that it is "journalistic premises" but the law is still unsettled in this area.

    From reading the daily details, I do not think that there would be a big problem in getting a subpoena for his equipment. Certainly a higher standard than a warrant but it *seems* that there would be enough to support it. Time will tell - it will be interesting to watch. Especially as several people have been, well let's say "incautious" with their public statements.

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  19. James Woods

    just use the political excuse

    When our great politicians get caught doing something in violation of the law they claim they weren't aware of the law, even though half the time the same individuals are on the same panels that write the laws being violated.

    This incident goes to show who our police work for. They work for apple, intel, ibm etc... They don't work for small business.

    If you owned a small business and this same situation occurred you'd be sol.

    Hopefully this dudes right and they violated the law by searching the home of an media figure.

    As others has said he never attempted to hide anything, the cops searching his place or ransacking it rather is their way to build other cases which would also conflict with California law.

    Two wrongs don't make a right. Law enforcement is permitted to lie to you but your not permitted to lie to them or if your caught in a lie your fried, unlike themselves.

    California has nothing better to do then enforce Apples BS? The state is broke, is apple helping bail the state out of it's fiscal disaster?

    Are all these billionaires helping California? Is apple employing alot of local California workers?

    Maybe they are.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Thye Bottom Line

    Is that Apple bought off the cops. Everyone in Silicon valley knows there is no way the police would have the slightest interest in this if Apple had not paid someone off in government to do the raid.

    1. The Commenter formally known as Matt



      There has been so much Press coverage the police had little option but to investigate, or maybe some prosecutor saw an opportunity to make his/her name.

      Maybe Apple made a complaint to the police, the fact they were engaging with Gizmodo, who were trying to return of the device (even if it had the effect of confirming the device was genuine), makes me suspect not.

      Either way the Police investigating a high profile suspected crime does not indicate government corruption.

    2. Quxy

      Huh? Good publicity for the cops too!

      Are you kidding? REACT was established at the request of Silicon Valley high tech industry, and its stated remit is to "provide a more effective level of service to the high tech business community". Those same high tech companies "provide specialized training, liaison personnel and internal support for task force investigations." There's no way that they were going to pass up _this_ PR opportunity, even without the nod from Apple!

  21. Mark Jonson

    If it was any other device...

    by any other maker, there would be no investigation into a possible "felony." But we all know that all goes out the window when it involves Apple. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple paid off the cops and had hauled his equipment away for an "investigation" at Cupertino. Perhaps if Chen had Macs instead of whatever Windows boxen he was running Steve Jobs could've just remoted in and snooped through his files without leaving a trace or attracting media attention.

  22. Adrian Esdaile

    No double standards, basic LAW 101

    No, there isn't a double standard, it's basic law and something this simple is high-school level.

    Simply: If you find something in the street, hand it in to the Police. Obvious 20c is not going to attract attention, but I think for Australia (legal persons might correct me here...) the law states anything above the value of about $20. or is it $50? ANYWAY, you Hand It In.

    The Police take your details, where you found it, and if no-one claims it in 6 months, IT'S YOURS. The "State", "Federation", "Republic" or whatever your local brand of Eeeeevil Empire(tm) is called, will only sell unclaimed items.

    Two cases in point: 1. a friend found a camera bag with selection of lenses, SLR etc. Obviously lost or stolen, hands it in to cops. 6 months later, gets a phone call saying 'come get your camera' SCORE!

    2. Bloke who works for bank (and should know better) finds a garbage bag with $1,000,000 in small loose notes. He hides it under his desk, at work (not very bright is he?). Sure enough, someone spots him taking large wads of cash from bag under desk, IN A BANK, so rightly calls security, who call cops. His story comes out, and is actually true - the bag was likely dropped in a drug deal gone wrong, BUT the prosecution pushes the fact that as bank staff he should have known better. Sentence - 2 years in the big house. Goodbye career in bank! Funny thing - if he handed it in, in 6 months he would have been a millionaire, what drug dealer is going to go and ask for his cash back? The money by the way, went to charity, not state coffers either.

    As for these Gizmodo gits, hope they get the book thrown at them, or someone nicks their car "It was just sitting there in the street, obviously you didn't want it, so I took it and stripped it of parts!"

    1. Arclight

      Universally applied

      Would this have recieved the same level of police attention if you'd lost your phone in a bar?

    2. Anonymous Coward


      Except... Gizmodo weren't the ones who found it. The guy who DID find it knew who the owners were and tried to give it back. Apple said keep it.

      So, not quite the same.

      I think it is yet another case of some over zealous DA wanting to make a name for themselves.

      1. Galidron

        @AC 15:52

        I keep seeing this argument over and over and I have yet to figure out how anyone can believe it.

        If I left my phone in a bar why the hell would you call Sanyo and tell them you found it? Even after logging into my Fb page from the phone and finding out what my name is you still think the appropriate way to return it is calling Sanyo? Certainly turning it over to the bar in the case I might come back for it would never cross your mind.

  23. Andrew Tyler 1

    Title and stuff.

    Can't say I have much sympathy. It was Gizmodo's attitude that irked me the most about it.

    If I found that phone and understood what it was, knowing that a fellow engineers career might be hanging on getting it back, I'd go to fairly great lengths to get it to him (if somehow I had already magically missed the easiest and most sensible option of just giving it to the bartender, of course). So I can't see the finder as having anything other than blatantly nefarious intentions.

    Gizmodo's claim of anything resembling intelligence or professionalism went out with them bragging about how they bought it.

    If the finder had said he made at least superficial attempts to return it himself and, failing that, handed it over to a Gizmodo "journalist" on the pretext he would be interested enough to use his industry contacts to get it back to its proper owner, and maybe get something to write about along the way, then everybody would have a reasonable claim at innocence (nobody has to know about the envelope of $50's). Instead, Gizmodo doesn't only come off as acting ethically dubious, but as being almost comically inept at it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      So, business as usual then???

      It would be really nice if everyone in the world did "what was right" instead of "what is legal", but that just isn't the case unfortunately.

      The media is all about the story, Gizmodo are no different than any other media outlet.

      At least Gizmodo didn't try to change the law in the first place so that they could do what they wanted, rather just used the law as it is, which is more than can be said for many other corporates.

      1. Galidron

        @AC 15:52

        They've done studies on this, and surprisingly most people do the right thing to try to return the wallet or phone. If you need I can look up citations for this, but it one place the studies were referenced was Paper, Rock, Scissors: Game Theory in Every Day Life.

  24. gimbal

    All your base are belong to...

    ....a PD in Silicon Valley. How soon before they run an exclusive?

    "Move ZIG - For great justice!"

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  26. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    The marketing is working then!

    How many "column inches" have been taken up with us all discussing this iPhone prototype thingy eh? Thousands of people, newspapers discussing it, forums awash with talk from haters and baiters.

    You simply cannot buy marketing hype like this....makes me wonder...

  27. -tim

    Same action, different result?

    While it may be a crime to buy stolen gear, its it a crime to pay the finder a fee so you can return it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      It may be an offence to offer a "no questions asked" reward for its return (in the UK)

  28. lukewarmdog

    @rots in hell

    Actually several layers of society are above several otherwise universal laws.

    It's hard nowadays to figure out who to bother even prosecuting given all the exemptions that abound. Some guy, driving geese through London - allowed. Archery, in Parliament square? Totally! Photographers taking pictures.. officers discretion. Diplomats smuggling in South African gold - allowed. The police beating people up - allowed. It wasn't long ago shooting people in the head was allowed. Leaving an arms rally looking over confident.. not allowed.

    Thank the deity for lawyers to help us sort the whole mess out.

  29. Paul M 1

    Yes, but...

    As I recall, the definition of "theft" includes something along the lines of "with the intention to permanently deprive the owner" of something - which is why e.g. copyright infringement isn't theft.

    Since it was Chen etc who informed Apple that they had their phone and subsequently returned it I don't see where the theft charge arises. Are they saying that it is illegal to handle stolen goods (by Californaian definition) if you are doing so to return the goods to their rightful owner?

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Business Cards

    although it's entirely unclear to us why they might have felt the need for a whole box of business cards belonging to "suspect chen".

    Perhaps because they were capable of storing data, ie mini CD's or smart cards.

  31. Ari 1

    come on...

    Calling Apple tech support does not constitue a reasonable attempt to give the phone back to the owner. The owner (or caretaker) has been calling the bar repeatedly to get it back. The "finder" has been into the owner's facebook account, knows his name, can contact him easily.

    And this is not a found item. It is an unattended item. If you leave your jacket (with wallet and id) unattended for any period of time, is it mine to do with as I please?


    It is YOUR jacket, left unattended. If I take it, use the stuff in it, take your money and THEN bother to look at your address I am a crook. If I then give you conditions as to how you can get it back (you can only get it back if you do X) then I am possibly a blackmailer.

    If I decide to take it apart at the seams (corrr, what's this thing made of), then I am willfully damaging YOUR property.

    There is a specific law in California stating that for found objects, reasonable attempts must be made at returning them to the rightful owner. When you've already (illegally) accessed the owner's facebook then you don't have much defense left.

    That's even apart from any trade secret laws which apply in California.

    Giz seems guilty of crimes (and tactlessness, stupidity, and lack of morals) and will get what they deserve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Jobs Horns

      "Trade secret laws"?!

      Trade secret laws? Is there such a thing?

      Do you mean a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)? As an "agreement", this only applies where both parties have "agreed" to it.

      I doubt Apple and Gizmodo have an NDA (at least not one that covers the iPhone 3GS v2.0 (I refuse to call it 4G when it isn't!!!) so this doesn't apply.

      Apple, as usual, are being the heavy-handed, shady, unethical hoods that we have all come to know and expect.

    2. Stevie


      The interesting thing is, this Gizmodo bloke and his pusher might have a case for damages if they can argue the iPhone posed an attractive menace, because in some parts of the USA, even though it is your swimming pool or your motorcycle and people really should teach their kids not to touch what doesn't belong to them, it is your fault if they can see the pool, jump over your fence at night and subsequently drown or pull your classic Harley over and get themselves crushed under it while you are in Starbucks.

      This iPhone was clearly "must have" techno-bling, and therefore leaving it out on a bar in front of someone who needed the 5 grand was criminally irresponsible. What iAddict could resist its siren call? Having found the thing was useless as a phone, the iAddict sells it on to finance his iAddiction, thereby entrapping the innocent Gizmodo in a downward spiral of iProduct-fueled bingeing that cuold only end badly.

      Truly, Steve Jobs is Satan Made Manifest, and this wretched iPhone is iCrack for the new millennium (plus ten) foisted on the helpless youth of America and other places where you can get a signal.

      Oh the Humanity!

  32. Alain Moran

    viral marketing

    I'm with Stuart on this one ... the whole 'I lost it while I was trashed' story just doesn't hold water to me ... if Apple didn't want this getting out there, then why did it leave the building in the first place?

    'In the wild' trials would be made under controlled conditions, likely by driving about during office hours ... if the trials weren't made under controlled conditions then they wouldn't be much use as a test, since you would not be able to tell what caused the 'error condition' that you observe.

    Lets face it ... everyone's been had, including the CA police (who are currently being used like a pawn by apple's marketing department) ... sucks to be Chen tho.

  33. Tony Paulazzo
    Jobs Horns

    Finders keepers...

    F'k'n idiots! finder made 50 000, would've kept his mouth shut, I assume he's lost it now? Jizmodo should'a said the iPhone was sent in anonymous like, they examined it, wrote up about it, posted it on to Apple - everybody happy.

  34. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Machinopocalypse is nigh

    So the Governator wants the 4G iPhone back, badly? Must have a prototype Skynet chip inside then...

  35. nsld
    Paris Hilton

    Apple may have saved him

    In terms of a defence to the charge it could be argued that Apple transferred ownership of the device to the finder when they told him it wasnt genuine and he could keep it.

    That would mean that Chen didnt buy a "found" item, it was an "owned" item and the finder was entitled to sell it as ownership had been transferred.

    My bet will be on the entire police department getting iPhone 4G's as a reward for serving the collective.

    Paris, she isnt a lawyer either!

  36. rcdicky


    Thing is, from what I've read 'sour grapes on apples part' doesn't apply here, seems the police are taking it upon themselves to investigate without instruction from Apple. I've certainly not read Jobs/Apple having any involvement in this other than to ask for the phone back (which I'd have thought they had by now)

    As for Chen being slated for naming the guy who lost the phone, so what. The guy deserved it IMO, you take something that valuable to a birthday bash, get drunk and leave it behind? That's just dumb. There's no way he should have taken it out with him. And really, as if Apple wasn't going to find out who lost it anyway. I imagine they're on a VERY tightly controlled list, one not being checked in at some point is going to raise eyebrows straight away, so he was going to be found out anyway...

    I just think this has been blown out of all proportion, criminal activity or not. It's a phone for crying out loud, is it really worth kicking down his door and raiding his office?

    Arrest the guy sure, but this all seems a bit heavy handed to me...

  37. Adam T

    Thinking of handling stolen goods?

    Protect your sources - become a blogger!

  38. SlabMan

    Still think this is a plant?

    If the engineer who left the phone in a bar lies when called as a witness in the theft case, he can be charged with perjury. Penalties for perjury are not trivial. How would Apple incentivise him to perjure himself in court with the prospect of jail time and acquiring a police record?

    If Apple asks for the case to be dropped as the phone wasn't really stolen, they'll be charged with wasting police time, plus lose any credibility with the police if a similar incident happens in future.

    All this for a supposed marketing stunt which hurts Apple at least as much as it helps them.

    The police are duty bound to investigate a potential crime when it's been plastered over the internet for days. If you think the response is heavy-handed, keep in mind the value of the phone. It's worth many, many times more than the $5,000 Gizmodo paid for it.

    One thing we'll never know - if the finder had persevered in contacting Apple, would they have rewarded him more highly than Gizmodo did?

    1. Quxy

      That would be a 'nope'

      "One thing we'll never know - if the finder had persevered in contacting Apple, would they have rewarded him more highly than Gizmodo did?"


    2. J 3


      "One thing we'll never know - if the finder had persevered in contacting Apple, would they have rewarded him more highly than Gizmodo did?"

      Nah, they would tell him (repeatedly) that he had reached his "lifetime limit" (which they won't specify) on finding iPhones, and he cannot find any more of them. Ever.

  39. Cameron Colley

    @Those of you saying this is about Apple.

    Try this scenario:

    Man1 looses phone in a bar.

    Man2 finds phone and calls a helpline for the company Man1 works for.

    Helpline says it can't help.

    Man2 takes phone home and then sells it to someone else.

    Police find out about this and it is illegal to sell found property.

    Man2 is arrested.

    Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Heck, anyone who finds property and doesn't either ignore it, hand it in to someone they feel is responsible for the premises they find it on, or hand it into the police are just thieves anyhow.

    Yes, it is careless to leave property somewhere -- but anyone claiming it would never happen to them is either obsessive-compulsive or a deluded optimist.

    1. Peter Simpson 1

      Except Man2 played with the phone

      and acessed Man1's Facebook page. He knew d*mn well to whom the phone belonged. He called a helpline instead of going back to the bar the next evening and asking if anyone had been looking for a phone. He then sold it to a blogger for $5000.

      Gizmodo knew d*mn well what they were buying. They *could* have taken a few snaps of it, and then called Apple and offered to return it. Instead, they kept it for a month, published that they had bought it off someone who found it in a bar and disclosed that they knew who had lost it.

      Neither of these folks comes off as being particularly ethical. They are now getting their just rewards. It's hard to feel any kind of pity for them.

      1. Cameron Colley

        Yes, I got confused with my man numbering too.

        I suppose I should have started at Man0.

        I would hope that even if this weren't an Apple prototype then anyone buying a phone they knew someone found in a bar would be arrested. Theft is theft.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Not quite...

      The help line didn't say "t can't help." though... they said "keep it"...

      Very different.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Most of the time it would end

      Man arrested

      Man interviewed

      Man released on bail to appear before magistrate

      Man fined/sentenced/handed over to higher court

      notice that "take all suspects gear away" is not on list.

      If they wanted to know who he paid for the phone, why didn't they ask at the interview stage. If he claimed some form of journalistic immunity then they would have subpoena'd

  40. andy 103

    It wasn't his

    Basically it wasn't his property, no matter how much some people on here wish it was.

    That's all there is to it really. Nothing surprising here... to anyone with common sense.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Is there an app for that

    Owning a PD ?

  42. The Commenter formally known as Matt

    Not clear cut

    Not all that clear cut, the finder, and rag (gizmodo) seem to have done several things right, and several wrong.

    1) Someone leaves a phone in a bar, it happens. A lot.

    2) Someone picks up phone and waits to see if owner returns

    3) Finder leaves with phone (Doesn't leave phone with bar, or his contact info - sounds weird)

    4) Finder takes phone home and plays with it for a bit.

    WTF - this is someone else’s private property - why are you doing 'playing' with it this is not your toy. Search contacts for 'Home', 'Work' or 'ICE' numbers sure - but randomly playing with it inc the camera??? Unacceptable

    5) Finder (while playing) finds facebook contact info, but doesn't contact apparent owner.

    6) Phone is remotely wiped, meaning it has been reported missing/stolen.

    7) Finder thinks it looks odd so opens the case - Now this is blatant criminal damage.

    8) Finder starts to call Apple, no response. He seems to have deduced that this is some kind of prototype, hence the owner would be Apple, not the guy apparently field testing it - Fair enough, and Apple support not knowing about a prototype - again fair enough, (but still that is Apples problem, if this is the official way of contacting Apple, then their internal procedures are up to them) but if you have his facebook info surely that would be a quicker way of returning it.

    9) Finder sells phone to online rag. What the hell are you thinking (other than $$$). The only way I can conceive of this being remotely acceptable is to *give* them the device as long as they give you a written guarantee they will attempt to return it to its rightful owner (They seem to be a niche Apple rag so its reasonable to expect them to have contacts within Apple) and then sell them an interview.

    10) Rag contacts Apple, rips apart, sorry, 'documents' the device.

    11) Rag publishes; Reg commentards foam at the mouth.

    12) Apple responds requesting the return of said device.

    13) Presumably rag returns device?

    14) Police raid journalist and seize equipment (possibly illegally)

    (All of this is sourced from gizmodo, so take it as you will)

    As far as I can see, if the Rag was given the phone (but probably not paid for it) then they would be fine, as they can adequatly demonstrate they have identified and notified the owner. But paying for it seem dodgy, saying that there are all sorts of special laws to protect journalists and their sources and IANAL.

    Or is this another case of the public being interested vs. in the public interest?

  43. Andy 3

    Business Cards

    The warrant isn't 100% explicit in the description of the business cards, but I can envisage several reasons why you would want to seize them:

    Option 1) They may be owned by Chen, but may not be *his* business cards. They may be contacts that he has met (or corresponded with) who have given him their business cards. If the police wish to trace the source of the iPhone then these business cards provide a handy starting point for buliding a picture of potential suspects.

    Option 2) The business cards are for Chen's business but perhaps they contain other details scrawled on them. For example, you meet someone that doesn't have a business card . You hand them one of yours for them to write their telephone number (or whatever) on the back of. Again potentially useful for establishing potential suspects.

  44. Marcus Aurelius

    Apple is the owner of the phone, not the engineer

    I notice a number of people have complained about the fact that Apple, rather than the specific engineer were contacted with regard to the return of the phone. As it is a prototype, I highly doubt that the engineer "owns" the phone, he merely had it on loan. The obligation is to return "possibly" stolen property to its owner, not the person it may be loaned out to.

    As it appears attempts were made to contact Apple to return the phone, then I don't see how any potential prosecution could stand. And that is before the protected journalism shield rights and warrant validity come into play.....

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Phoning Applecare will not be deemed reasonable, no matter how much you hate Apple. The reasonable course of action would have been to hand it into the bar or the police, simple as. It may be overzealous to suggest malice; however naivety in't a defence either...

  45. BeefStirFry


    Question Apple want to know the answer to is who else did they let play with it?

    Why? Because if they did, and the right people have already had a look at the bootrom, then there's a chance that the device will be jailbroken on the first day of release ;-)

  46. Jonathan

    strange business cards...

    but pretty cool though: "suspect chen"

    i want some saying "suspect jon"

  47. Steve Evans

    Good grief...

    Talk about heavy handed.

    Wouldn't a quick phone call containing the words "Hello Sir, this is the Police, we've had a phone call from St Jobs, would you mind giving his phone back please?" have done the job?

    I see a lot of Apple gear in that inventory of confiscated gear, I hope he remembers how he was treated when it comes to upgrade time...

  48. Anonymous Coward


    No matter what happened, it still doesn't give the police the right to bust down the guys door looking for a fn' phone. FFS it's not a f*ck'n missing Picasso. It's just another phone among phones and not all that special.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      So...'s OK that he may have broken the law and flaunted it under the local constabulary's nose? Gizmodo an Chen made this high profile, not Apple.

  49. alex cee

    We should remember this for the future!

    Note to self: Buying stolen apple prototypes and releasing the info on the web in the country of origin is not a good idea. Instead once purchased get it UPS'd to another contry and spill the beans there.

    I swear if these fanbois had common sense.........

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