Kudos to the media orgs that pushed for unsealing the affidavit used by California’s REACT Task Force to obtain a search warrant for Gizmodo reporter Jason Chen’s home and other locations for material related to the site’s purchase of the now-infamous 4G iPhone prototype. The search warrant itself showed that they were investigating a possible felony; the affidavit sworn by Detective Matthew Broad of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office, spells that out along with Apple’s role in the investigation and more. What is not clear at first reading: whether the judge was told Chen’s home also fit the definition of a newsroom. That could have a strong impact on arguments that the search was illegal under California state law protecting journalists. [Update: According to the Mercury News, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan said during the hearing about unsealing the affidavit that he was aware Chen was a journalist when he signed the warrant and sealed it to protect his work as a reporter.
We’ve embedded the full document below; here are some bits that stand out, including Gizmodo Editor Brian Lam’s not-to-be-missed “off the record” e-mail to Steve Jobs.
— Felonies alleged: Broad alleges Chen committed three felonies: buying or receiving stolen property; theft by making a copy of any article representing a trade secret (that includes photos/videos); and malicious damage of property valued at more than $400.
— Meeting with Apple: Pages 11-12: Broad details a meeting with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) execs and outside counsel on Apr. 20, but doesn’t say how the meeting came about. Outside counsel George Riley told Broad the prototype was “invaluable” and that’s its loss was “immensely damaging.
— Roommate’s role: Apple’s Rick Orloff told Broad the company was contacted by a Katherine Martinson, who said she was a roommate of Brian Hogan, the man who took the 4G prototype from a bar after it was left behind by Apple employee Grey Powell. She said she was reaching out because she thought Apple or the police could trace her via IP addresses because he had connected it to her computer.
— Gizmodo’s “off-the-record” e-mail: Page 13: Apple asked Gizmodo Editor Brian Lam to return the phone after the articles were published Apr. 19., Lam refused unless Apple confirmed it was the prototype. His e-mail reply to Steve Jobs was “off the record” but now it’s part of a court case.
and the follow-up after Apple confirmed the unit was real:
— Destroying the evidence I: Pages 16-18: Broad had no knowledge that Chen was tampering with or destroying any evidence about the payment but he did have plenty when it comes to Hogan and a friend, including hiding a computer at a church and leaving memory cards under a bush. This is the kind of info that can get a judge to issue a search warranty make sure potential evidence is preserved.