Gawker, Gizmodo off the hook in iPhone 4 leak case

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

The San Mateo, Calif., district attorney's office said Wednesday that it has filed misdemeanor charges against two people in the 2010 case of the lost iPhone 4 prototype that rocked the tech media world--and will not charge Gawker Media, which published photos of the then-secret next-generation Apple phone.

"After a consideration of all of the evidence, it was determined that no charges would be filed against employees of Gizmodo," the D.A.'s office said.

Brian Hogan, 22, was charged with one count of misappropriation of property; Sage Wallower, 28, was charged with misappropriation of lost property and possession of stolen property.

"We are pleased that the District Attorney of San Mateo County, Steven Wagstaffe, has decided, upon review of all of the evidence, that no crime was committed by the Gizmodo team in relation to its reporting on the iPhone 4 prototype last year," Gawker Media said in a statement. "While we have always believed that we were acting fully within the law, it has inevitably been stressful for the editor concerned, Jason Chen, and we are glad that we can finally put this matter behind us."

In April 2010, Gizmodo published photos of the prototype that Gawker said it bought for $5,000 from someone--later identified as Hogan--who allegedly found the phone in a Redwood City, California bar. (To date, the post--entitled "This is Apple's Next iPhone"--has been viewed more than 13 million times.)

A few days later, police in California seized four computers and two servers from Chen's home.

According to Gawker, California's Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team "entered editor [Chen's] home without him present," and "did so using a warrant by Judge of Superior Court of San Mateo." Gaby Darbyshire, the chief operating officer of Gawker Media, said at the time that the search warrant "was invalid under section 1524(g) of the California Penal Code."

Two months later, the warrant was voided, computers and servers were returned to Chen, and Gawker agreed to cooperate with investigators in the case.