Criminal probe into iPhone prototype nears end

“A probe into a prototype iPhone 4 purchased by a gadget blog is nearing its end, with investigators expected to report their findings soon,” Greg Sandoval and Declan McCullagh report for CNET. “Stephen Wagstaffe, district attorney for the county of San Mateo, Calif., told CNET today that ‘the investigation is ongoing’ and he expects it could conclude as early as next month. Investigators are close to finishing their interviews and will present him with their findings, he said.”

Sandoval and McCullagh report, “The investigation began early last year when Robert Gray Powell, a 28-year-old Apple computer engineer, left an unmarked prototype iPhone in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif. Brian Hogan, a 22-year-old student, found the prototype and sold it to Gawker Media’s Gizmodo for $5,000. Gawker editors and Hogan could be charged with crimes.”

“Prosecutors have confirmed that they are conducting a felony theft investigation, but no charges have been filed. They previously have said that media organizations that commit crimes should not expect to be immune from criminal laws,” Sandoval and McCullagh report. “A possible target of the investigation is Hogan, who could be accused of violating a state law dealing with misappropriating lost property. Another, which law enforcement officials have indicated is an option, is Gizmodo and its parent company Gawker Media. Police obtained a warrant to search the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen last spring.”

Sandoval and McCullagh report, “Under a California law dating back to 1872, any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be–but ‘appropriates such property to his own use’–is guilty of theft. There are no exceptions for journalists. In addition, a second state law says any person who knowingly receives property that has been obtained illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year.”

Read more in the full article here.

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


  1. It time to move on, by the time the trial is over we could be on iPhone8. Government with fiscal restrain could better of going after real criminals. Remembers the saying finders keepers, do not punish the finder, punish the idiot who lost it.

    1. They’re not punishing the finder. They’re punishing the person who knowingly bought stolen property. If we’re not going to go after them, then the law needs to be stricken from the books.

      1. Gizmodo already been punish by being barred from all future Apple events. The wrath of Steve Jobs is worst then any other punishment our laws can give them.

    2. So if I find your “lost” car with the keys in it I’m perfectly justified in just taking it home and putting an ad on Craig’s list, and selling it for whatever I can get for it, right?

  2. Never mind CA laws. That’s under the universal Mom Law #8. “Don’t take what doesn’t belong to you!”

    Well, at least that was Mom Law before roughly the ’80’s. Mom’s have changed too.

  3. The student who found the iPhone prototype should also be punished. He knew very well who the device belonged to. Why else would he try to sell it to Gizmodo for five grand?

  4. Listen to you idiots. Punish punish punish. Ruin people’s lives, right? All because some company with billions of dollars may want to press charges on a blogger for finding a prototype and showing it to the world. You all sit on your computers, read the news and rumours, then, when someone has to take responsibility for leaks, you’re right there to pounce on them.

    “Hey, thanks for the reporting… what? No, I don’t know anything about them…”

    Maybe there should be a law against Internet surfers sharing links to items such as prototype iPhones…

    Screw you and Apple. The idiot who lost the phone should take most of the ‘punishment’, whatever the hell that means.

    Just get over it, respect people, and move on. That includes you, too, Apple.

  5. Idiots? Because we thing that criminals should pay for their crimes? Where do you live? I would like to come steal your car because you would not report the theft. And we love your language, so adolescent, so crude, so immature!

    1. Tflint:

      You’re analogy doesn’t work. The phone was not stolen, it was bought from the person who found it. Secondly, come and steal my car because I would not report the theft? The only way this would apply is if Giz stole the phone from the Apple employee knowing that he wouldn’t report it. But that didn’t happen. So you’re not making any sense.

      It’s true. Everyone will email articles like prototype shots to each other, blah blah. And like it. But then nobody cares and everyone cries foul when the person doing the reporting faces charges. Screw you and screw Apple.

      1. How do you know he didn’t steal it and just said he found it. It could have been very easy for him to do just that. The other question is why didn’t he return the iPhone to Apple or to the bar in case the owner came back to look for it? Instead he tried selling it right away and eventually did. Let’s not say that Tflint just happens to find a car parked in your driveway and decides that since no one was in it at the time, he claimed it and sold it to another person for some money, you then have no claim that he stole it. The car was just sitting there.

        1. Everything you are saying is conjecture. Based on the evidence, Giz did not steal the phone. Period. They bought it indirectly and reported on it. Then, they returned it to Apple when Apple asked for it back.

          Hmmmm, what law says you can’t report on something that was lost?

          1. By disassembling it they converted it to their own use. It doesn’t matter if they reassembled it and made it better than new; what they did still seems to be a criminal offense.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.