Police raid home of Gizmodo writer over iPhone prototype

Police confiscated computers, hard drives, and cellphones from the home of Gizmodo writer Jason Chen's, searching for information related to the rare Apple iPhone prototype he reported on.

An iPhone prototype, left, is shown next to the iPhone 3GS in this image from Gizmodo.com.

The case of the missing iPhone 4G took a more serious turn Monday afternoon with the revelation that police with a search warrant raided the home of Gizmodo writer Jason Chen Friday night.

Officers from California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team seized computers, hard drives – even a new iPad – searching for evidence related to the rare iPhone prototype that Mr. Chen obtained and reported on earlier this month. Gizmodo parent company Gawker Media reported that it had paid $5,000 to obtain the phone from someone who found it in a bar last month.

On Monday afternoon, Gizmodo posted the full text of the warrant; a letter from Gabby Darbyshire, chief operating officer and legal counsel for Gizmodo parent company Gawker Media; and Chen's account of the events.

In the warrant, which says that the San Mateo Sheriff's office has cause to believe that property at Chen's address was used as a means of committing a felony, police are directed to confiscate all records, files, and data related to the "Apple prototype 4G iPhone."

When Chen arrived home to find police confiscating his equipment, he reportedly showed them an e-mail from Ms. Darbyshire that said that he was a journalist, and as such was subject to legal protection from searches and confiscation of property. A printed copy of the e-mail is included in the police inventory of items confiscated from Chen's home.

It is not yet clear why the judge who authorized the search did so knowing that Chen is a journalist, Gizmodo says, but some have suggested that it is because he writes for a technology blog and not a more established publication. Darbyshire's published response includes specific reference to a 2006 case meant to show that the protections she cites apply to online journalists.

The Gizmodo episode comes the same week as a New Jersey appellate court ruling that a blogger there was not protected by a journalists' shield law that gives writers legal protection from having to reveal confidential sources.

In a move that many say confirmed the legitimacy of the iPhone prototype, Apple last week sent an official letter to Gizmodo, asking for the device's return.

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