Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lost iPhone sparks debate over ethics

SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Hogan's world closed in fast almost as soon as he sold the next-generation iPhone he found in a Silicon Valley bar to a popular technology website for a stack of $100 bills, according to court documents released Friday.
By April 19, Hogan's roommate had tipped off investigators that he was at the center of the drama, Apple's top lawyers were meeting with police to press for criminal charges and Steve Jobs was demanding the iPhone's return.

The ordeal has set off ethics debates in journalism and law enforcement circles while Hogan and a website editor are now at the center of a criminal investigation that has been rife with speculation but devoid of many facts — until now.

On Friday, San Mateo Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan ordered unsealed a 10-page sworn statement with details written by San Mateo Sheriff's Detective Matthew Broad to obtain a warrant to search the car and home of Jason Chen, a editor. Broad's statement was used to obtain a search warrant for Chen's home and car.

According to the statement, the saga began March 25, when Apple engineer Robert "Gray" Powell left the iPhone prototype in the bar area of Redwood City's Gourmet Haus Staud restaurant.

It said Gizmodo paid Hogan $5,000 for the device, cracked it open and posted images of it on April 20 despite a phone call from Jobs the day before demanding website editors return the gadget. Gizmodo promised Hogan an additional $3,500 bonus if Apple formally unveiled the device by July, according to Broad.

Chen is under investigation for theft, receiving stolen property and damaging property, according to the affidavit. The affidavit also suggests Hogan and a third roommate, Thomas Warner, also may face criminal charges, and alleges the two panicked and attempted to hide evidence when they caught wind of the criminal investigation.

Nobody has been charged with any crime,

"The events have taken on a life of their own," said Jeff Bornstein, Hogan's attorney. "He thought it was dumb luck that he stumbled on to something valuable, and he regrets not doing more to return it."

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