Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The Long, Weird Cops and Robbers Tale of Gizmodo, Apple and the 4G iPhone

Here’s the definitive tale, so far, of iPhonegate. It comes via the search warrant affidavit filed by the San Mateo cops, who were investigating Gizmodo’s purchase of a 4G iPhone prototype as a felony.

A lot of this stuff has been out in one form or another, but the narrative is pretty fascinating. If you plow through the document embedded at the bottom of the post, bear in mind that it’s a tale told by Matthew Broad, a detective in San  Mateo County Sheriff’s office. So it’s possible that other parts of the story, and/or different versions of the same story, may still end up coming to light.

Among the highlights:

  • Apple knew that Brian Hogan, the 21-year-old who found the iPhone, had the thing because his roommate, Katherine Martinson, called and told the company he had it. Her reasoning, according to Apple (AAPL) security chief Rick Orloff: “Suspect Hogan connected the stolen iPhone to her computer and she believed that Apple would eventually trace the iPhone back to her via IP addresses. Therefore she contacted Apple in order to absolve herself of criminal responsibility.”
  • Martinson told police that Hogan had offered the phone to Gizmodo, AOL’s (AOL) and PC World. While Gizmodo owner Gawker Media had previously said it paid $5,000 for access to the phone, the affidavit is a bit fuzzier. Martinson says Hogan told her Gizmodo offered $10,000 for the gadget and later said he’d received $5,000 from Gizmodo and a total of $8,500. But she wasn’t clear where the other $3,500 came from. “Martinson said Hogan also told her that he will receive a cash bonus from in July if and when Apple makes an official product announcement regarding the new iPhone.”
  • There’s a long cops-and-robbers interlude where police show up at Hogan’s house, but he takes off and is eventually tracked down at his father’s place. In the end, Hogan and Thomas Warner, another roommate, help the cops retrieve a computer, a flash drive and other equipment they’d removed from their place “in order to ‘protect'” Hogan.
  • Apple CEO Steve Jobs did indeed reach out to Gizmodo to ask for the phone back. Here’s editor Brian Lam’s response to Jobs, via email (click to enlarge):

And here’s the entire affidavit, which we’re able to see because a group of media companies, including CNET, Bloomberg, Wired and the Los Angeles Times, petitioned a California judge to unseal it. Gawker Media, via COO Gaby Darbyshire, declined to comment on the affidavit and its contents.

UPDATE: Here’s Gawker’s position, via an email Darbyshire sent Saturday afternoon:

First of all, the warrant and supporting affidavit do not appear to acknowledge the sanctity of the newsroom or even address the serious issues at stake.

Second, the idea that it is a felony trade secret theft to photograph an item that was admittedly left in a bar is ridiculous.

Finally, Gizmodo from the start was attempting to investigate if this item was a genuine prototype of a product belonging to Apple; we believed that confirmation of its authenticity and ownership quite reasonably needed to be made in writing – and once we obtained that, the item was returned immediately.

EFF has a detailed piece on the warrant issue here.


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