Gizmodo not charged in iPhone 4 prototype sale case; sellers get misdemeanors

Aug 11, 2011
Tech

Remember that crazy story about the iPhone 4 prototype left in the bar? It’s been a while, so if you don’t, that’s okay. The story was about a man who discovered an iPhone 4 prototype accidentally left behind in a bar, and eventually sold the prototype to tech blog Gizmodo. Oh, and Apple getting the […]

Remember that crazy story about the iPhone 4 prototype left in the bar?

It’s been a while, so if you don’t, that’s okay. The story was about a man who discovered an iPhone 4 prototype accidentally left behind in a bar, and eventually sold the prototype to tech blog Gizmodo. Oh, and Apple getting the government involved and Gizmodo being investigated.

Well, according to a story in PCWorld, Gizmodo has been cleared of all charges in the case, and the guy who sold it (and the man who helped him) received some fairly minor wrist-slaps. It seems things worked out (relatively) well for everyone – except Apple, I suppose.

The case began in March 2010, when an Apple engineer, Gary Powell, accidentally exited a bar with his prototype, as-yet-unannounced iPhone 4 sitting unguarded at his former table. Brian Hogan, a 22 year-old Redwood City man, found it, thinking it was the iPhone 3GS. According to PCWorld, Hogan then tried (kind of valiantly) to return the phone to Powell, first by tracking him down using the phone’s Facebook app and finding Powell’s Facebook page.

The next day when Hogan went to try again to find Powell, he discovered the iPhone 4 had been “bricked,” or rendered unusable. That was when he started to look at the device more closely, and discovered he wasn’t dealing with an iPhone 3GS at all. So he called Apple to get it back to them.

Apple, apparently, didn’t respond, and left Hogan in possession of its unannounced phone. So Hogan involved 28 year-old Sage Wallower, a friend, asking him to start gauging interest in the iPhone prototype among tech publications. Gizmodo bit and paid the pair $5,000 for the prototype, and then wrote up a big expose about it. This  greatly irked Apple and resulted in the blog being investigated, plus a raid on the home office of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen. Apple had apparently reported the prototype stolen rather than lost to authorities.

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After all that, though, Gizmodo parent company Gawker Media has announced that charges against Gizmodo have been dropped by the District Attorney of San Mateo County, California. As for Hogan and Wallower, they’ve been charged on misdemeanors: Hogan for the appropriation of lost property, Wallower for the appropriation of lost property and possession of stolen property. Hogan faces up to a $1,000 fine and one year in county jail for the appropriation charge; Wallower faces the same, plus one year in county jail for the possession charge.

Hogan and Wallower are scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Aug. 25.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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