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Misconduct accusations stall iPhone prototype investigation

updated 10:55 pm EDT, Mon April 26, 2010

DA interrupts search to reconsider laws

Shortly after the Electronic Frontier Foundation voiced concerns over the legality surrounding a police raid of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's residence, the DA has decided to halt its investigation of the leaked iPhone prototype. TechCrunch contacted Stephen Wagstaffe, Chief Deputy at San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, who acknowledged that the case has been paused for further review.

Wagstaffe was careful to point out that the case is "just an investigation" and the DA has yet to file formal charges. The deputy also suggested that the investigation is not yet targeting Gawker or the discoverer of the iPhone prototype, as the gathered information must first be submitted to the DA for a final decision.

When asked about the legality of the warrants and property seizure, Wagstaffe claimed the prosecutor in the case believed that Chen was not protected by California's shield laws which require the government to file a subpoena to obtain materials used by a journalist to communicate with the public. Earlier reports suggested the task force seized four computers, two servers, an iPhone, a digital camera, bank statements, and e-mail printouts.

Amid accusations of misconduct, the DA allegedly intends to reevaluate the potential application of shield laws to the seizure of Chen's equipment. TechCrunch asked if it was typical for the DA to evaluate the relevance of shield laws only after taking property. The deputy acknowledged that such actions were unusual. He also dismissed speculation that Apple had played any role, despite the company's position on the steering committee for the REACT task force that served the warrant, as noted by Yahoo News.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. designr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2002

    -14

    Can you say....

    Can you say First Amendment?

  1. MyRightEye

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008

    0

    First Amendment??

    What's that??









    /s

  1. rtbarry

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +20

    1st Amendment? No, you rittards...

    The 1st Amendment does not protect individual speech against other private individuals and their private property. It does not protect thieves against IP/corporate theft. The 1st Amendment provides protection, from/against the government, to individuals and the press.

    Free Speech does not allow anyone to say whatever they want about anyone. It also does not allow anyone to steal/abuse/publicize the intellectual property of other individuals/entities.

    Back to Grade School with you children!

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +8

    Agreed w/rtbarry

    Whether Gizmodo is a legitimate journalism site or not doesn't really enter into it. Journalists are subject to the same laws as everyone else. They can't buy stolen property, they can't promote or foster a crime, and they can't hide behind "journalism" when they get caught doing it.

    We don't know the whole story here, so perhaps the warrant didn't take all considerations into due regard, or maybe the cops were overzealous in some way. But if you need reminding, a JUDGE signed off on this warrant, indicating that at least HE/SHE thought there was criminal action that merited investigation.

    There was definitely -- no question about it -- criminal activity here (under the laws of the state of California). Whether Giz or the person who stole the iPhone will be prosecuted for it, or what charges they may face, is still an open question.

  1. charlituna

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2009

    +5

    My opinion

    IF a site openly confesses to committing a crime then all bets are off. Yes the police can get a warrant and come in and their computers and what ever else and use it to file charges against them.

    And yes what, under California law, they committed a crime by taking possession of property that did not belong to the seller. AND they paid money for it. Further they openly said prior to the incident that they would happily pay money for information etc so they might have actually encouraged the crime to take place.

    As for the seller, come on you find a phone and you want to return it so you take it home rather than leaving it with the bartender, etc. The guy didn't want to return the phone. He saw a free phone and decided to keep it. And got real lucky. And I wouldn't be shocked if he admitted as much to Gizmodo and they told him to call Apple, etc so he could claim he tried (rather than driving 30 minutes to Apple HQ and handing it over)

  1. designr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2002

    -3

    The Supreme Court of the United States

    @rtbarry

    Clearly, the Supreme Court of the United States has disagreed with your position on several occasions.

    and, speaking of childish, using the term 'rittards' shows a conspicuous lack of maturity and common sense.

  1. stormj

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2010

    +6

    asdf

    No, @designr, they haven't. In fact, in an application of the specific California Evidence Code provision in question, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the California case Rosato v. Superior Court of Fresno County (App. 5 Dist. 1975) 124 Cal.Rptr. 427, 51 Cal.App.3d 190, certiorari denied 96 S.Ct. 3200, 427 U.S. 912, 49 L.Ed.2d 1204, which held that the shield law does not apply when the criminal activity in question is committed or witnessed by the "newsman."

    I don't think anyone here is arguing that Chen isn't a journalist. A recent New Jersey case might have held differently than California, but I still think Chen is within that line.

    The question is simply whether or not he and/or Gawker committed a crime separately. The cops are investigating that.

  1. James Katt

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2008

    -8

    An analogy

    Here is an apt analogy:

    1. Journalist commits murder.
    2. Journalist writes and publishes a story about the murder.
    3. Journalist posts photos of the murder victim, including the victim's belly cut open to reveal the entrails.
    4. Police and District Attorney learn about the murder.
    5. Police and District Attorney obtain search warrant to seize the journalist's computers for evidence of the crime.

    According to the EFF, the Police have no right to the search warrant.
    They have to send the journalist a subpoena.
    This would give the journalist time to search his computer and erase any evidence of the crime (e.g. communications with accomplices, plans for the crime, photos of the crime, etc.).
    Then the journalist is suppose to give the police only data relevant to the subpoena.

    Of course, there would not be any.

    Sorry, but that doesn't make a lot of common sense.

    There are limits to the First Amendment. For example, you can't yell "Fire!" in a crowded movie theater since this may result in death and injury from the rush of people trying to escape. The First Amendment doesn't protect you from prosecution for committing a crime if you write about the crime either.

  1. appleuzr

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Aug 2006

    -4

    comment title

    boo. take the b******* down.

  1. DeezNutts

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008

    -5

    Re: An analogy


    Wow what a worthless analogy.

    How anyone could equate theft to murder is beyond me!

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