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'Lost' iPhone 4G brouhaha: Jobs gets on the job

Femme fatale unmasked prototype-napper

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Apple CEO Steve Jobs intervened in the Case of the Purloined iPhone, personally contacting Gizmodo editor Brian Lam to ask for the return of the missing iPhone 4G prototype.

That tidbit - told by Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell to Detective Matthew Broad of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office - was revealed today by the unsealing of the search warrant behind the search of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home. A copy of the full set of search warrant documents can be found here (thanks, Wired).

In addition to Jobs' direct involvement in the case, Det. Broad's detailed recounting of the events leading up to the search of Chen's home is chock-full of intrigue. Some high points:

  • In a meeting on April 20 with Sewell, Apple lawyer George Riley, and Apple director of information security Rick Orloff, Det. Broad asked Riley what the value of the missing iPhone was. Riley said it was "invaluable".
  • In the same meeting, Orloff said that he had been called by a woman who identified herself as Katherine Martinson, who told him that her roommate, Brian Hogan, had sold the now-famous phone to Gizmodo.
  • Martinson called the cops because Hogan had hooked the purloined phone up to her computer, and she feared that Apple would trace the phone to her by way of her IP address. She also called Apple, as Det. Broad put it, "in order to absolve herself of criminal responsibility.
  • After his website had released its original iPhone 4G story, and after he had been contacted by Steve Jobs, Gizmodo editor Brian Lam wrote Steve Jobs an "off the record" email, reproduced in full in the affidavit, asking Jobs to confirm that the phone was an actual Apple prototype: "I want to get this phone back to you ASAP. And I want to not hurt your sales when the products themselves deserve love. But I have to get this story of the missing prototype out, and how it was returned to apple, with some acknowledgement it is Apple's."
  • In that same email, Lam wrote: "I know you like walt [Mossberg] and [David] pogue, but I think Gizmodo has more in common with old Apple than those guys do. So I hope you understand where I'm coming from."
  • In a subsequent email to Sewell providing Apple with Jason Chen's address, Lam included a postscript: "I hope you take it easy on the kid who lost it. I don't think he loves anything more than Apple except, well, beer. Maybe some spankings."
  • After he found the phone, Hogan told Martinson that he had discovered that it belonged to Apple engineer Gray Powell through Powell's Facebook page, presumably accessed using the phone. Martinson and Hogan then "conducted an Internet search" for Powell, and learned that he was an Apple engineer.
  • In Det. Broad's words, "Martinson said Hogan understood that he possessed a valuable piece of technology and that people would be interested in buying it. He subsequently contacted the periodicals Gizmodo.com, PC World, and Engadget.com in an attempt to start bidding for the iPhone prototype."
  • Martinson said that 10 days later, Jason Chen offered Hogan $10,000 for the phone. When she asked him why Gizmodo would pay that much, Hogan offered the opinion that: "They know its valuable. They would receive millions and millions of hits."
  • Martinson said that she and friends tried to talk Hogan out of selling the phone, arguing that doing so would sink Powell's career. Hogan's response, according to Martinson: "Sucks for him. He lost the phone. Shouldn't have lost the phone."
  • Hogan later showed Martinson a camera box that contained $5,000 in hundred-dollar bills, and told her that the full amount that he had received from Gizmodo was $8,500, and that he was due a cash bonus from Gizmodo "if and when" Apple announced the new iPhone.
  • While Det. Broad was preparing a search warrant for Hogan's home, he received a phone call from Martinson telling him that Hogan and his roommate Thomas Warner, in Det. Broad's words, "were aware of the investigation and were in the process of removing evidence [a CompactFlash card with photos of the phone, the phone's serial-number sticker, and the like] from the residence".
  • Det. Broad responded, and eventually found Hogan at his parents' house. There Hogan told him that Warner had taken the evidence in order to "protect" him.
  • Hours later, Det. Broad found Warner, who told him that he had lost the missing iPhone's serial-number sticker at a gas station. After a record check turned up the fact that Warner had two outstanding misdemeanor warrants, he was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, where he told another detective to look for the missing pieces of evidence under a bush in Redwood City - which is where Det. Broad found them. He then found the sticker at the gas station.

At that point, Det. Broad felt he had enough evidence to support issuing a search warrant for the home of Jason Chen. That warrant was issued, and the search was conducted.

It remains unclear whether the items taken from Chen's home will be admissible as evidence or whether he, as a Gizmodo editor, will be protected by journalist shield laws. But a few other facts are, indeed, certain.

First, that Katherine Martinson won't soon be invited to a quiet evening of bemused reminiscing with Brian Hogan and Thomas Warner.

And second, regarding Hogan: "Sucks for him. He stole and sold the phone. Shouldn't have stole and sold the phone." ®

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