Gizmodo editor Jason Chen retains criminal defense lawyer in 4G IPhone prototype imbroglio

Apple Online Store“Gizmodo editor Jason Chen retained a criminal lawyer Monday night in the missing iPhone case that has made national headlines.

Thomas Nolan Jr., veteran criminal defense attorney from Nolan, Armstrong & Barton in Palo Alto, Calif., will represent the blogger who writes for the popular Gawker network.

Authorities are believed to be probing whether a crime was committed — and by who — when Gizmodo paid $5,000 for an Apple iPhone prototype that it said had been found in a Redwood City, Calif., bar. Gizmodo published detailed descriptions and photographs of the phone and then returned it. Police seized laptops, flash drives and credit card statements from Chen’s Fremont, Calif., home in a Friday raid,” Zusha Elinson reports for

“Nolan said Tuesday that he didn’t know if Chen is the target of the investigation,” Elinson reports. “‘I don’t know whether he’s the target of the criminal probe or whether they’re trying to get information about sources from him,’ said Nolan. The lawyer added that ‘there’s a serious question about the propriety of issuing a search warrant for a journalist.'”

MacDailyNews Take: By SteveJack: If Jason Chen is a journalist… Howdy, I’m Edward R. Murrow! Nice to meet you. You can call me Ed. Good night, and good luck.

Elinson reports, “Gawker has also hired Thomas Burke, a First Amendment specialist from Davis Wright Tremaine. Burke and Gawker COO Gaby Darbyshire met with San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe on Monday morning to argue that Chen’s computers are protected under California journalism shield laws.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Spark” for the heads up.]


  1. Gizmodo had to know this was coming. And they did. Why else do you think they sat on the iPhone 4 for over a week. It’s so that their lawyers could look into the case and decide whether or not they could win.

    I for one hope that they do. It’s an iPhone, it’s not like they sold military movement plans to the Taliban.

  2. Before Apple orchestrated this PR coup: new iPhone = the next upgrade of Apple’s phone – some new features but likely to produce only the usual update stories in the media, if at all.

    After the stunning, ongoing PR success: new iPhone = so important to life as we know it, in an effort to protect its profound secrets, a police strike force entered a private residence, confiscated everything, the local DA moves the crime to high priority, and preparation has begun to shut down a bar, kill off a gizmo company and remove the criminals (bunch of kids) from society so we will all be safer.

    Hats off to Master of Ceremonies Steve Jobs – you have outdone yourself. Question: has any of this surpassed your expectations or do you consider it on schedule, as planned?

  3. @ Dallasm,

    If these idiots had talked to a Lawyer they would have walked away from Apple’s prototype like Wired and Engaget did.

    It’s a prototype iPhone and it does contain Millions of dollars worth of Apple’s Intellectual Property. It wasn’t just a lost phone.

    It was a trade secret, just as important to Apple as battle plans are to the US Military.

    Go shit disturb elsewhere.

  4. I appreciate that MDN admits they’re not a journalist. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

    Chen allegedly committed a crime way outside of the protection of shield laws. It’s criminal, and his innocence or guilt will be proven on the evidence, not whining about First Amendment rights that don’t apply here.

  5. Everyone on Gizmodo’s side of this will continue to obfuscate this imbroglio (there you go C1) by attempting to make this a “journalist” and “shield law” issue. It’s not. It’s about buying stolen property (fencing) and trade secret law. Gizmodo is in for a world of hurt.

  6. Yeah, whether he’s a journalist or not, California’s shield laws don’t give him the right to break the law. They specifically deal with issues related to journalists giving up their sources.

    If the police search was intended to reveal the identity of the person who sold the iPhone to Gizmodo, then it may be illegal under the shield law. But if it was intended to secure evidence related to crimes the journalist may have committed — receipt of stolen property, theft of intellectual property — then shield laws have no relevance.

    The main disturbing thing about the warrant is that it didn’t appear to contain an explanation, allowing the police and prosecutors to retrofit a legal rationale that would fit. We also see the same sort of confusion in coverage of the issue, which often seems to discuss Gizmodo’s alleged wrongdoings and then brings up the shield law. The shield law should only be considered when talking about the identity of the source.

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