Investigators searched Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s home Friday night. Last week, Chen and other Gizmodo employees published multiple articles detailing Apple’s new iPhone. The prototype iPhone was apparently left in a Redwood City, Calif. bar and illegally sold to Gizmodo and/or its employees.
Police served the search warrant while Chen was at dinner with his wife. He returned to find in the process of seizing just about every gadget in his home, including four computers, an iPad, iPhone and two servers. In addition to the computers, hard drives, phones, servers and other gadgets seized from Jason Chen’s home, police also removed financial records. Computer forensic investigators have been ordered by the court to examine all of Chen’s email, text messages and digital records.
While Chen has not been arrested, he and other Gizmodo contributors may face serious charges. The search warrant does not detail specific charges (if any) against Chen, but it does state that the search is related to the investigation of a felony. In California, thefts involving property valued at $400 or greater can be charged as felonies. Anyone buying or receiving property that they have reason to suspect is stolen can be guilty of a felony. Almost any iPhone, and especially a prototype iPhone, is worth more than $400.
The search warrant hints that Chen, or others involved in selling or buying Apple’s new iPhone, may be charged with additional crimes. The search warrant requested that investigators seize:
“Printed documents, images and/or notations pertaining to the sale and/or purchase of the stolen iPhone prototype and/or the sale and/or transfer of trade secret information pertaining to the iPhone prototype.”
The trade secrets revealed by Gizmodo are worth many, many times more than the physical iPhone itself.
Gawker, the company that owns Gizmodo and employees Jason Chen, is obviously upset that such a search was carried out. The Gawker Chief Operating Officer Gaby Darbyshire wrote a letter to investigators arguing that Chen is protected from such searches since he is a journalist. Darbyshire cites penal code commonly refereed to as the “Shield Law,” which prevents law enforcement from compelling journalists to reveal anonymous sources, even if those sources committed a crime. The Shield Law does not allow journalists to commit crimes.
Darbyshire’s letter to investigators argues that Chen is indeed a journalist. Journalist or not, it’s pretty clear a crime was committed by somewhere along the line. A week ago, many questioned whether or not criminal charges or lawsuits would be filed against Jason Chen, other Gizmodo editors, or other Gawker employees. It’s now all but certain that one person will be on the wrong end of an arrest warrant or lawsuit.