Cops Seize Gizmodo Editor's Computer After Apple iPhone Leak

Gizmodo says police seized computers at editor Jason Chen's home.

ByABC News
April 26, 2010, 4:58 PM

April 26, 2010— -- A blogger who wrote about the famously leaked next-generation iPhone was forced to turn computers and other gadgets over to police, the tech blog Gizmodo said on its site today.

Last week, Gizmodo dominated headlines when it published an exclusive story about a prototype of the next generation of Apple's iPhone -- scheduled for release this summer.

After the phone was left behind in a bar by an Apple engineer, Gizmodo said it paid $5,000 to the person who found the phone.

According to Gizmodo, California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team entered editor Jason Chen's home Friday night and seized four computers and two servers. Chen said he was not present when they arrived.

When called by, a REACT spokesman deferred comment to the San Mateo County district attorney's office. A spokesman for the office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gaby Darbyshire, Chief Operating Officer of Gawker Media LLC, which owns Gizmodo, said the search warrant to remove the computers was invalid under the California Penal Code.

"Under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist," she wrote in a letter in response to the police.

Citing the relevant section of the California Penal Code and a 2006 case concluding that journalistic protections apply to online media, she added, "it is abundantly clear that under the law a search warrant to remove the items was invalid."

"In these circumstances, we expect the immediate return of the materials that you confiscated from Mr. Chen," she wrote.

In an account of the event also posted on Gizmodo, Chen said that when he and his wife came home from dinner Friday night, they saw that the garage door was half-open. When he tried to proceed inside, he said, officers told him they had a warrant and had been there for a few hours. Chen said the only damage done was to the front door, which they "bashed" open.

Last week, Gizmodo set tongues wagging when it published its scoop on the leaked next generation iPhone.

Apple is well-known for cultivating a culture of secrecy, so when Gizmodo was approached by an unidentified individual who said an Apple employee on the next barstool left the prototype on the bar, Chen said he and his fellow editors had their doubts.

The person who claims to have found the device apparently tried to return it to the patron who left it behind, but was unsuccessful, Gizmodo editorial director Brian Lam told ABC News.

So the finder sold it to Gizmodo, Lam said. Lam said Gizmodo offered to return it to Apple. "I told them, all they have to do to get it back is claim it -- on record.''

There's the rub. To claim the phone and get it back, Apple would need to confirm that it was a true Apple prototype.

To leave it in the hands of an outsider could give up highly valuable trade secrets and marketing strategies Apple would not want exposed.

And so began a delicate dance between one of the most powerful tech companies in the world and one of the most popular tech websites that cover the industry.

Gizmodo said the the prototype iPhone was working when found and was switched on in the bar. It said the mobile Facebook app was logged in to the account of Gray Powell, an Apple software engineer whose last post on the social networking site was "I underestimated how good German beer is."