Police seize evidence in iPhone HD/iPhone 4G investigation

Exercising a search warrant last Friday, members of California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team seized evidence in the ongoing investigation into the iPhone HD/iPhone 4G that wound up outside of Apple's control and plastered all over the internet last week.

Gizmodo has the full account up, including the warrant, a response from Gawker legal, and their account of the events.

[Gizmodo]

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

56 Comments
  • Apple is the biggest spaz in history
  • Good for Apple, put the shady players where they belong
  • Gray Powell should be lucky his identity was outed; if not The Apple Gustapo woulda whacked him
  • I really don't know what the big deal with this whole issue is:
    1. The finder of the property (iPhone) sold said property he knew wasn't his to sell.
    2. There is an organization or person that bought property from a person who they had prior knowledge didn't legally have the right to sell. (see #1)
    If you lost your car keys in a bar, does that give the finder the right to sell your car? No!
  • Police investigations are run by the DA's office, not Apple. High profile cases typically attract attention. Apple can only instigate civil proceedings (if they choose to).
  • The "property" was NOT STOLEN!!! The phone was lost. The guy who found it called Apple to return it. Apple did not claim the property as theirs. The guy then sold the UNCLAIMED property to the blog. Only after the story was published when Apple claimed the phone as theirs.
  • The issue is that the police seized computers from a journalist to find a source. Even if you think in this case it is justified, do you really want that to be an OK standard? Do you think if it is OK here it would be OK in a case of a whistleblower or someone who exposed government or police corruption?
  • @pcdsim
    Unclaimed in 1 day? There are actually legal guidelines that Apple has to claim their property, which is a REASONABLE time. Thats up for interpretation by courts, but I doubt 1 or 2 days and then selling it off is reasonable.
    The phone was not lost, you clearly have no legal knowledge. Look up "mislaid property" and then "receiving stolen goods" Its very clear under common law at least that the guy who found it committed theft, and Gizmodo bought stolen property.
  • @KS
    How do you know their motive?
    They could easily seized it as evidence that Gizmodo purchased stolen property which doesnt violate the Cali Penal Code section Gizmodo's lawyer quotes.
    And Im sorry I personally dont believe in the fact that journalists should be able to protect criminals in lieu of freedom of the press.
  • if apple didn't claim it when it was being returned, then that's apples fault, not theft. If you find $100 at the bar and the guy next to you says that it's not his, then the founder isn't at fault. That's messed up that they broke this guy door and took his things. All they had to do is confiscate the phone, apple don't own those 4 computers and 2 servers.
  • @Hectic, read my above post, the time to reclaim is what's REASONABLE to a court, not what YOU think is reasonable. It only sounds like it was a day or 2 they had to claim it, and the guy probably called Apple the morning he sold it or the day before. you dont know all the facts to claim that Apple just didnt want it back because they obviously did by the drastic actions theyve taken.
    And you clearly have no idea how search warrants or criminal law works. Please read up on it before posting ignorant comments.
  • I'm still trying to see the felony in all this, but maybe I don't know the law. Everything was given back to its rightful owner...
    Dear Government,
    Stay the HELL out of our lives until we vote that we need you.
    Sincerely,
    JP
  • And the soap opera continues! I know Steve is loving all this attention. Grab the attention away from the Incredible and upcoming Evo. It's brilliant.
  • TonyJohns is smack on!!!
    This is nothing but good for Apple. I keep hearing how everyone wants the 4G now that it's "out there" but NO... it isn't out there. We really don't know yet!
  • Ugh apple making me dislike them even more. Either way I'm out in December
  • Apple is run by the illuminati that's why there so Evil and Mean!!!!!!!!!
  • @Johnny, theft/stolen isnt always what you picture from TV in terms of the law.
    "Mislaid property- Property is generally deemed to have been mislaid or misplaced if it is found in a place where the true owner likely did intend to set it, but then simply forgot to pick it up again. For example, a wallet found in a shop lying on a counter near a cash register will likely be deemed misplaced rather than lost. Under common law principles, the finder of a misplaced object has a duty to turn it over to the owner of the premises, on the theory that the true owner is likely to return to that location to search for his misplaced item. If the true owner does not return within a reasonable time (which varies considerably depending on the circumstances), the property becomes that of the owner of the premises"
    From that it sure sounds "stolen" to me in the eyes of the common law at least. Then:
    "Receiving stolen goods is generally buying or acquiring the possession of property knowing (or believing in some jurisdictions) that it had been obtained through theft, embezzlement, larceny, or extortion by someone else. The crime is separate from the crime of stealing the property. To be convicted, the receiver must know the goods were stolen at the time he receives them and had the intent to aid the thief. Paying for the goods or intending to collect the reward for returning them are not defenses. Depending on the value of the property received, receiving-stolen-property is either a misdemeanor or a felony."
    Sound like buying stolen property too.
    Again this is all common law and not California statutes, but statutes usually mirror common law principles for the most part.
  • @jk
    This makes sense. I never realized there was a difference there. So yeah, I think I can now understand the whole scheebang scenario.
  • @Pcdsim
    I believe that in California law, lost property can be claimed within 3 years. So just because the property was lost for 24 hrs, doesn't mean that the item no longer has an owner. What both parties did (Gizmodo and the guy that sold it to Gizmodo) were wrong, and now they're paying for it.
  • @TonyJohns
    Did you know that if you stimulate pouring salt and pepper into your mouth, you actually begin to taste the salt and pepper? Try that in front of a mirror. The gesture you're seeing in the reflection is akin to what you're doing with Steve Jobs.
    Seriously, you actually believe that the inclusion of a police investigation is a means for Apple to get attention away from Android? That attacking Jason Chen directly and firing an employee is some sort of marketing ploy? Especially AFTER Apple sent a formal letter for a return? Dude, WAKE UP.
  • Really good use of law enforcement's time. (sarcasm)
  • @pcdsim
    the phone WAS stolen. If I am at a bar and find a lost phone, I give it to the owner of the bar. Businesses have "some" legal protections when dealing with property that is left in their establishment. I know, I run a motel, and find and return lost phones and items all the time.
    Instead, the guy just took the phone, and sold it to someone for profit. irregardless of trying to return it, he still had no legal right to sell it
  • Did they get the guy who actually sold the device? Or is it only the editor that's getting the heat here?
  • I am glad Gizmodo got this - which is what they deserve. They should have returned the phone at once. No sympathies for Gizmodo--
  • flame away.. Then they should prosecute everyone who posted all the pics and info gizmodo is taking the heat for.. I'm sure this site took a moral stand not to relay all that info right
  • and secondly if apple doesn't want there products leaking maybe they should avoid handing then to drubken frat boys
  • @ jk if apple was contacted about missing property, and I'm pretty sure they would ask to describe it, they should have known that it's their property. What confiscating computers and server have to do with getting the phone back.
  • BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
    :::gasps for air:::
    Seriously, this is too funny, particularly all the know-nothings in the comments here (and at MacRumors) who think this is Apple's doing. Perhaps someone was sleeping through the Government class in High School?
    I hope Gizmodo goes down in flames.
  • Gizmodo is getting what they deserve. I want Steve Jobs presenting me my new iPhone every year not some jerks with tired satire. If they are found innocent of any wrongdoing, great. But if they are they should be penalized under the full authority of the law. This whole story of "finding" a prototype iPhone was fishy from the start. Idiots spoiled WWDC! Put'em in prison.
  • Yahoo news is speculating on Apple's role in this raid due to their steering presence on the REACT committee:
    http://tinyurl.com/34hxz6g
  • I didnt see this story posted on Gizmodo. It must be fake!
  • Do the crime. Do the time.
  • I have absolutely no sympathies for Gizmodo. They have been so self-righteous about this whole thing that it's satisfying to hear about this. Don't for one second believe them when they say they didn't know they were buying stolen property (someone doesn't have to steal it for it to be considered "stolen goods")!
    I hate their I'm-a-"journalist"-but-only-when-it's-convenient-for-me ploy and how they're trying to convince their readers they did nothing wrong. They deserve all the police probing that comes their way.
    And for those ignoramuses out there, this is not about the police/Apple trying to punish them for writing the story, it's about finding who sold them the iPhone prototype, which was most definitely illegal.
  • I'm actually glad Gizmodo was raided, what they did was clearly illegal in my mind. How can anyone seriously think it's ok to buy/sell some random object you found (that's clearly not your property, like say a prototype of a company's new phone) and then publicly admit this fact while video taping it and putting it on the web. Personally, I think it was pretty dumb of Gizmodo.
  • Guys. Common law does not apply. Please don't confuse the issue more and pontificate on legal issues with misinformation.
  • Guess they didn't leak it
  • Wow, you guys are full of it! Everyone here(including TiPb!) was loving the news and the "leak", not being all moral or giving a damn at the time, now you back-stabbers are mad at Gizmodo because the phone is real. People always want something bad to happen to someone else. Always wanna see someone in flames...losers
    I bet none of you are half this good-hearted everyday in the streets. All of you have done SOME type of crime or unhonest activity sometime in your life with best intentions. To bad all youguys didn't burn when the iPhone you bought on Craigslist was actually stolen too. F a g s. Hope the police come and beat you and shoot you for resisting arrest.
    Hats off to Gizmodo
  • Wow! It's getting out of control!!
    http://www.diverse-group.com/menu/blog.html
  • Pretty much, if I was a big company like Apple, and someone sent me an email saying "I have your lost phone," I'd want a moment or two to make sure of a couple of things:
    a.) Has a phone been lost
    b.) Is this guy possibly jerking us around
    c.) Can we deal with this and reward the guy who brought forward our device
    Now, instead of sitting tight, this guy got greedy, jumped at the offer that Gizmodo offered him, and Apple got, understandably, pissed. How long has Apple been using extreme care with the unveiling of their projects? Since the goddamn 70s? I know we all love to get info on the upcoming projects, but that info comes in word of mouth, grainy photos and pure, uncut, Columbian-grade speculation. Personally, if there was even a CHANCE that this thing was legit, I would have called Apple and run screaming the other way.
    Gizmodo took a gamble they couldn't possibly win, and so did this "good samaritan" who could barely wait a full day before selling something that didn't belong to him. If they both get fried, so much the better.
    And Danny, you're damn right I've committed my fair share of crimes, and penalties have come with it. Damnation supported by the damned is righteous, so deal with it. And I bought my phone in Chinatown, thank you very much.
  • @Danny
    What if somebody "found" your phone? You're telling me that if somebody sold you're personal property for profit knowing d a m n well who it belonged to you wouldn't be pissed? And also, you wouldn't cooperate with the police to get justice? Either you're a criminal or a liar. The reason people have changed their minds is because as this story unfolds Gizmodo's actions are getting shadier. Couple that with the fact that this is site for people who are pro-Apple and WTF do you expect?
  • It's all my personal opinion, but If it was me or most of the people, then I would hav returned to the bar owner, so tht the person who lost it might return back to get it. I work in a store too and if someone loses a phone or wallets, I do not take them but keep it safely so my co-worker can see it n we can return to the owner. I believe there's something fishy goin on coz, if it was me n if I find a lost droid, then I wldnot be calling motorolla company. Something wrong, gizmodo got it through some wrong channelS.
  • @Ron's car example pretty much hits the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned. If I lost my keys and you found them, you don't have a right to sell the keys or what is associated with those keys (my car) to someone else. The keys were never yours to sell, and since I knew they didn't belong to you, I had no right to buy them either.
    Gizmodo, by its own chronicles of how it happened upon the iPhone prototype, has unwittingly published evidence of its guilt in buying property that it knew did not belong to the seller. Furthermore, by taking it apart and then publishing its findings, Gizmodo unwittingly revealed Apple's trade secrets, which is actually probably far worse than simply buying the stolen device.
    http://cl.ly/fB0 - a good article on the legal ramifications of Gizmodo's actions, and why it's not about freedom of speech or a defense of journalism (rather, this article makes the case that it is actually an affront to journalism).
  • @Po Kuntry Boi
    Interesting thing is, I've recovered a couple wallets and phone in my lifetime, and I've been able to successfully return them to their owners; except 1 phone. I texted the guys mom, I guess his little freak junt, and some other contacts that might have seemed important. They all acted like they didn't know what the hell was up. I COULDN't get it to him. Found it at a gas station. His phone had already been disconnected and it's still in a box in my closet.
    A guy LOST his phone. I FOUND it. I tried to RETURN it by contacting the OWNER. No avail. I kept it in my possession. I'm a thief. I have "STOLEN" good. Take me away coppers.... Yeah ok.
    A company employee LOST a phone. A guy FOUND it. He tried to RETURN it by contacting the OWNER. No avail. Owner didn't make reasonable enough effort to try to receive back the property. Guy sells the phone to Gizmodo. There is NO CLEAR OWNER(because remember, Apple hasn't declared this as their device) and I couldn't be. Gizmodo posts pics. Owner finds property and asks for it back. Found property is QUICKLY returned.
    The everyone who has passed hateful, biased, and down right ugly judyements against Gizmodo deserves jail time for the next time they BREAK THE LAW by spending.
  • By that logic my motorcycle that was stolen and I found stolen on craigslist should have a search warrent issued and the seller should be arrested. The police did nothing. So much for due process of the law.
  • Oh boy,be careful what you wish for eh. Well, I hope all those page clicks was worth the trouble Gizmodo, ya deserved it.
  • @Danny
    Honestly, I see your point but the story is not that simple. Within a couple of days/weeks he sold the phone for 5k! That's the crime. Regardless if it belongs to Apple, HTC, you, or me, the phone was not his to sell and Gizmodo knew that purchasing the phone, real or fake, was a crime. Further, the guy turned on the phone and saw Gray's Facebook page and whatever else but didn't contact him. Then Gizmodo mysteriously discovers this information and puts it on their website. How did they obtain this information? Most likely the seller of the "found" phone. Like I said before shady. Gizmodo tried to get too cute and it backfired.
  • This whole case is fishy. I guess Apple is pissed that the public now sees the new iphone isn't all that. In the end, they will look like douches and the Gizmodo blogger has a good case against the cops.
  • Wow, the level of just pure ignorance here is astounding. The most important thing to remember here is that this is a case if a news organization spending money to acquire and verify the source of, an extremely news worthy piece of technology. I guarantee that any news organization that deals in any way with "technology" would jump at the chance to have been in gizmodos shoes. They would have all payed big money for this thing if they thought it was legit. This is how practically every "leaked" gadget ends up in the news. Whether or not it was "stolen" is not relevant. "Stolen property" is a legal term, go pass the california bar exam or shut up about it. In any case the fact that this item was newsworthy and received from a source trumps any other considerations, especially when the source indicated a detailed account of how he attempted to return the item to apple, and they simply refused to acknowledge it's existence. Go read the full saga of the iPhone 4g on gizmodo if you haven't, it clears up a lot of confusion. Oh and by the way, as soon as apple notified giz they wanted it back, they had it almost immediately. There's a reason all these news agencies operate in California, because the laws there very specifically protect this type of stuff.
  • FYI: Wired article quoting the EFF, stating that the warrant used to seize Chen's home computers, servers, and phone was invalid:http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/04/iphone-raid/
    My own thoughts:
    1) The example of lost car keys is a terrible and non-analogous example. There are practically no resemblances between the two scenarios.
    2) This is not a matter for the courts as of yet; this is a matter of police investigation, to determine whether or not a crime took place.
    3) Apple is one of the members of the steering committee of REACT (California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team). However, as Rene pointed out, neither Apple nor Jobs is directly behind the criminal investigation -- that's a matter for the DA's office and the police. It is likely that (and it has been reported that) Apple has asked the police to investigate the matter, though.
    Gizmodo has legal counsel, by the way. If one were to actually read the somewhat extensive and readily available articles on the topic, one would discover that Gizmodo was in close communication with their legal counsel at the time that they were tearing down the prototype iPhone. The reason Apple sent Gizmodo a letter stating that the prototype iPhone was Apple's property and that they were formally requesting the return of said property is because such a statement and request was legally appropriate for Gizmodo to return it to them. Whether a crime was committed in the sale of the iPhone to Gizmodo or in some other way is not clear -- that's the reason for the investigation.
    My expectation is that the three primary results of this investigation will be as follows:
    1) The law regarding the question of whether bloggers are journalists will be tested.
    2) Lawyers will make money.
    3) California will go increasingly into deficit.
  • Regarding the possibility that Apple could file a civil lawsuit against Gizmodo or some related party: my question is, can Apple make a plausible and legitimate argument that financial damage was done to them over Gizmodo's reporting of the prototype iPhone? IMO, Apple risks more by pursuing a civil case over this matter (in terms of public relations). Further, I don't think Apple will lose a single penny from lost iPhone sales to their competitors because of anything that was revealed about the prototype iPhone. That Canadian cellular provider already had revealed that a new iPhone was expected in June (not that anyone is surprised). And the prototype tear down revealed basically nothing of any value, other than the existence of a front-facing camera.
    I expect that Apple will leave the matter to the police to determine if a crime took place and whatever follow up actions ensue, but that Apple will otherwise do absolutely nothing. Jobs will probably make a joke about it when the next iPhone is revealed.
  • @KS and others.
    You are missing one critical fact. The phone was not sold in a day or two. The guy found the phone in March. He claims he tried to get it back to Apple for OVER 3 WEEKS. Now I can't prove those claims but if Gizmodo was smart at all they would have gotten some evidence of that.
    KS, post repeatedly here calling people ignorant of the facts and lambasting them for posting and then did EXACTLY the same thing. You also quoted someone else's interpretation of common law when that is totally irrelevant. CA uses CA code. You would be laughed out of court with your citation.
    Why be such a jerk to people when you have no idea what you are talking about either?
  • @Dennis
    That is what is most puzzling about the raid -- the seeming incompetence of the DA's office. Gizmodo is a news organization, and the person upon whom the warrant was served is a writer. It seems obvious even to this non-lawyer that Chen/Gizmodo would invoke the California Shield Law for journalists in any defense. Now, even though several of Chen's computers were confiscated, the DA is holding off examining the machines until after this issue is settled. At best (from the DA's perspective), a lot of time and taxpayer money was spent executing a raid before it was ready, and fighting off a legal challenge that may not have been necessary. At worse (again, from the DA's point of view, the evidence so taken will be ruled inadmissible, and Chen will have an actual case for wrongful seizure.
    A little more care and caution starting proceedings would have saved everybody a lot of grief, and resulted in a stronger case against Gizmodo, if that is what the DA wanted.
  • "KS, post repeatedly here calling people ignorant of the facts and lambasting them for posting and then did EXACTLY the same thing." - huh? I have never posted here before or for that matter again.
  • The phone was clearly lost property and not stolen (to begin with) but the finder also didn't make a very good effort to retun it. Several things spring to mind:
    1) The finder should have turned it over to the bar staff and left it at that, absolving himself of liability
    2) If the finder had reason to believe the bar staff/manager could not be trusted with it he still should have left his/her contact details with them
    3) You don't call a large company's customer service number to return a prototype device. They are only scripted to deal with average everyday calls. He should have tried an Apple Corporate contact such as their legal people.
    4) Since the finder got a support ticket, if he was being genuine about returning it he would have given real contact details so Apple (and hence the police now) knows who he is. If he didn't give real contact details that will look bad on him.
    5) The finder supposedly saw it was Gray Powell's phone before it got bricked. Gizmodo was easily able to contact Gray directly, why couldn't the finder?
    6) Even if there are no criminal proceedings because it can be proved that Gizmodo had the intention to return it to Apple all along (which they probably did) and the finder knew this, the audacity of Gizmodo to then rip it open and post all the details online months ahead of the release has opened them up to civil case proceedings for potentially giving away trade secrets ahead of the product release.
    7) If I found it and didn't trust the bar staff I would have left my contact details and took a trip over to Apple HQ and maybe get a reward for returning it intact and still secret :)
    The fact that the finder made such a lame attempt at returning the phone and was so quick to sell it to Gizmodo is going to look bad on them as it doesn't show any good will towards Apple.
  • @ (Copy of) Dev:
    I used to be surprised by incompetence in human institutions, especially in government, but less and less so. I do think that the pressure on the REACT team is probably something like, to show the public and the big Silicon Valley corporations that they are capable of acting quickly and comprehensively when there is a question of lost or stolen property, especially technological or electronic prototypes. The people on the ground in that team probably think that someone up top is overreacting for political reasons.
    At least they put a hold on doing anything with the equipment they seized until the warrant is cleared up. It seems like a pretty big gaffe on their part, to seize so much hardware with no specific target information stated in the warrant -- plus the protection of journalists issue. Given the circumstances, at the very least, if the REACT Team persists in this matter, the EFF is going to pick a fight with them at some point, if no one else does.
  • I see all the over zealous Apple fanboy posts have slowly grinder to a halt....