Apple's iPhone 4G prototype, lost in a California bar and subsequently dissected by tech blog Gizmodo, has generated no end of news over the past few weeks. Now, under pressure from the media, the San Mateo Superior Court has unsealed the search warrant affidavit that led to a raid on the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Among the revelations in the affidavit: Apple told law enforcement that the so-called invaluable prototype's unauthorized release into the wild had the potential to affect iPhone sales. The document also details Apple CEO Steve Jobs' attempts to reclaim the mobile device.
Apple executives pushed law enforcement officials to investigate what they
termed the "theft" of a prototype iPhone 4G, newly opened court
documents reveal. Although the revelation of Apple's involvement in the case is
unsurprising, the search warrant affidavit, ordered unsealed on May 14 by San
Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan, provides new details about
the days leading to the police raid on the California
home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen.
In the search
filed with the clerk of the San Mateo Superior
Court on April 29, Detective Matthew Broad describes meeting with
representatives from Apple, including "Rick Orloff (Director, Information
Security), Bruce Sewell (Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary),
and George Riley (O'Melveny and Myers, LLP) regarding the theft of an
unreleased Apple iPhone 4G."
On March 25, Apple engineer Gray Powell had lost the iPhone 4G at the
Gourmet Haus Staudt restaurant in Redwood City,
Calif. According to Broad, Powell's last
memory of the prototype "was placing it in his bag, which he then put on
the floor by his feet." At some point during the evening, Powell
apparently said, "his bag was knocked over ... and it was possible the
prototype iPhone fell out of the bag and onto the floor."
At some point after that, the iPhone ended up in the collective hands of Gizmodo, which
dissected the prototype
and showed the results in an April 19 blog post;
Broad interviewed the roommate of Brian Hogan, who said Hogan had found
the device in the bar and subsequently sold it to Gizmodo. The roommate said
Hogan had connected the device to her computer and, concerned that it could
therefore be traced back to her residence, contacted law enforcement. Although
media reports over the past few weeks have said Gizmodo parent Gawker Media
paid $5,000 for the device, Broad's witness said Hogan claimed the sale of the
phone had netted him $8,500.
Riley apparently stated that the public dissection of the iPhone 4G on
Gizmodo was "immensely damaging" to Apple. "By publishing
details about the phone and its features, sales of current Apple products are
hurt," Broad related, "wherein people that would have otherwise
purchased a currently existing Apple product would wait for the next item to be
released, thereby hurting overall sales and negatively effecting Apple's
On those grounds, Riley described the missing iPhone as
Sometime around April 19, Apple CEO Steve
Jobs apparently contacted Brian Lam, the tech blog's editor, to request the
return of the device. Lam responded by saying "he would return the iPhone
on the condition that Apple provided him with a letter stating the iPhone
belonged to Apple." Once it was returned to the company, Apple engineers
found the prototype had suffered a broken ribbon cable, an electrical short
caused by a misplaced screw, broken back plate straps and stripped screws in
the course of its disassembly.
Broad described preparing a search warrant for Hogan's residence to search
for more evidence related to the iPhone prototype, when Hogan's roommate called
to say Hogan and another individual "were made aware of the investigation
and were in the process of removing evidence from the residence." Hogan
apparently drove to his father's house, where the police found him; Hogan's
digital equipment, including his cell phone, was subsequently seized.
The next step for Broad was to search Jason Chen's residence. "I
believe that the evidence of the theft of the iPhone prototype, the vandalism
of the iPhone prototype and the sale of its associated trade secrets will be
found in and/or upon the items requested in Appendix A," Broad wrote,
referring to a document describing Chen's townhouse in Fremont,
Conducting the raid on the house were members of the state of California's
REACT (Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team) Task Force, whose 25-company
steering committee supposedly includes Apple. After arriving late April 23,
those officers apparently seized four computers and two servers. Gawker Media
Chief Operating Officer Gaby Darbyshire argued that the search warrant was
invalid, on the grounds that Chen's digital media contained data about sources
and were thus protected from seizure under Section 1070 of the Evidence Code.
News organizations ranging from the Associated Press to Bloomberg News and
Wired joined in a court filing to unseal the search warrant affidavit, which
remained sealed until May 14 despite a California
law dictating that such documents be revealed to the public after 10 days.
Other participants in the filing included the Los Angeles Times and the First
"The execution of this search warrant on a journalist has created a
public debate over, among other things, whether a basis existed to obtain a
warrant [notwithstanding] the provisions of the Federal Privacy Act ... and a
similar state law ... that protect First Amendment rights," reads the media
organizations' filing, which
can be found here.
"The records that would help answer these questions include the
affidavit submitted in support of the warrant and the return, which 'shall be
open to the public as a judicial record' once the warrant has been executed or
10 days after issuance," the filing said. "But despite this clear
right of access, all records relating to the warrant have been sealed-and the
clerk's office will not even release the order sealing the records or the
Now that the document has been released to be public, at least some of those
questions may be answered.