San Mateo Judge Orders Gizmodo’s Stolen iPhone Search Warrant Be Withdrawn

San Mateo County Judge Clifford Cretan today granted an application for the search warrant used to seize Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen’s belongings to be withdrawn, and all his belongings returned.

Jason Chen


San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan today granted an application from the San Mateo County District Attorney asking that the search warrant used to search Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen’s home be withdrawn. Chen, as I’m sure everyone remembers, wrote the original article exposing the iPhone 4, months before its official unveiling. The phone Chen examined as his basis for the article was obtained through murky means, and an investigation into the affair has been ongoing for several months.

On April 23rd, California police raided Chen’s home, “bashing in” his front door, and seizing an extensive list of electronic items, including four computers and two servers, using a search warrant issued by the San Mateo County D.A. That search warrant has come under fire: Many, including Gizmodo’s legal counsel and our own legal resource, Lawrence J. Siskind, believe the search warrant invalid. According to them, the warrant violates the so-called California Shield Law which protects journalists from having unpublished information obtained for a story from being seized.

That the warrant was withdrawn is not a clear sign one way or the other. The investigation hasn’t been dropped, and if anything, this is simply a sign that Gizmodo and its parent company, Gawker Media, are merely cooperating with the investigation. Though the seized equipment will be returned to Chen, Gawker Media has agreed to hand over to the court any materials a court appointee “deems relevant to the case.”

You can read the entire document at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, though it’s pretty brief and businesslike.

The announcement comes at an odd time, just as Steve Jobs is up on stage defending the iPhone 4’s antenna issues and issuing jabs at Gizmodo left and right.

Disclosure: I am a former employee of Gizmodo, though I departed
before the events of the stolen iPhone transpired.
Fast Company
sometimes syndicates Gizmodo articles, and vice versa, as part of an
ongoing partnership.


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