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Men Who Leaked iPhone Prototype Criminally Charged, Gizmodo Cleared

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 16, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Remember online publication Gizmodo's iPhone 4 post that was (literally) ahead of its time? In 2010, the leaked iPhone 4 made headlines when a Gizmodo writer Jason Chen, posted a story about the prototype.

Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower originally found the phone at a California bar. They then decided to shop around to see if any tech blogs would pay for the then-unreleased phone.

Jason Chen, Gizmodo writer, took them up their offer. He gave the two men about $5,000 in cash for the prototype. His post on Gizmodo drew lots of traffic and the ire of Apple, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Luckily for Gizmodo and Jason Chen, prosecutors have just decided not to pursue any charges against them. The two men who sold the publication the phone, however, were not so lucky. Both have been charged with a misdemeanor for misappropriation of lost property.

The San Mateo DA says that the reason that Gizmodo and their writer, Chen, are skating by without a criminal charge is because of the First Amendment.

But, the DA's decision not to charge Chen with a crime does not mean the writer got away scot-free. When the publication hit the internet news waves, authorities raided his home, according to NPR.

Chen, for his part, returned the prototype after Apple demanded it back, according Ars Technica.

The debacle over the iPhone prototype serves to underscore the secretive nature of technology these days. In turn, it also shows the amount of public interest there is in the unveiling of new products.

Maybe Apple's internal workings likely influenced how the public turned to Gizmodo's post. For one, Gizmodo's iPhone 4 post likely wouldn't have garnered so much attention if it wasn't for Apple's propensity for secrecy with their products. As for Jason Chen, it seems likely that the intrepid writer will be a little more cautious in the future.

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