• 05.14.10

Search Warrant Used to Raid Gizmodo Blogger’s Home Reveals Apple’s Involvement

The case of the stolen iPhone just got stickier: The judge involved just ruled that, due to the massive publicity the story has received, there’s no need to keep the search warrant a secret any more. It’s been released, and it shows just how involved Apple was in the investigation.

Jason Chen

CNBC is reporting that Judge Clifford Cretan, who approved the original search warrant which led to the raid on Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen’s house, is releasing the warrant itself. It’s an easy decision to make; Wired already released the name of the person who sold the iPhone to Gizmodo, and most of the details are extremely public knowledge. So what does the warrant show?


First, it shows that Apple did indeed call the San Mateo police department to report the iPhone stolen and request an investigation, which was the catalyst for this whole disaster. The case was turned over to REACT, the state’s high-tech crimes unit, to investigate.

But more importantly, it explicitly refers to Brian Hogan, the person who found and sold the iPhone, as a suspect, while Jason Chen is not referred to as a suspect. It also (for the last time, people) calls Gizmodo an “Internet based magazine,” which, along with both common sense and the opinions of legal experts, should put to rest the ridiculous idea that there’s somehow a debate over whether bloggers count as journalists under California’s journalist protection Shield Law. It’s been proven through precedent in O’Grady vs. Superior Court, for one thing.

The warrant does seem to ignore the problem that Chen works from home, thus making his home an extension of his office, which in the case of a journalist is under certain legal protections.

The warrant shows that investigators searched Chen’s home looking for information on Brian Hogan, rather than treating Chen, Gizmodo, or Gawker Media (Gizmodo’s parent company) as a suspect. This could prove a major roadblock for the investigation–there are very strict rules regarding the treatment of a journalist’s source, especially in the ways investigators can and cannot go through the journalist to get to that source. A lot of this may come down to whether the iPhone is treated as stolen property or information, but a lot of it won’t–without a criminal case against Gizmodo, everything found and seized from Chen’s house may well be thrown out.

Check out our interview with trade secrets expert Lawrence J. Siskind here for more insight on the legal implications of the case.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one–you’ll have to do the legwork yourself).

About the author

Dan Nosowitz is a freelance writer and editor who has written for Popular Science, The Awl, Gizmodo, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. He holds an undergraduate degree from McGill University and currently lives in Brooklyn, because he has a beard and glasses and that's the law.