Apr 272010
 
 April 27, 2010  Court, Featured News, Surveillance

Mary Duan reports:

The criminal investigation into the purported theft of an apparent iPhone prototype came at the request of Apple Inc., officials said Tuesday.

Investigators said they have identified and interviewed the person who took the phone from the Gourmet Haus Staudt on March 18 after it was left there by Apple engineer Gray Powell following a birthday celebration.

Officials were unable to tell the Business Journal whether that person, whose name has not been released, was the same person who eventually sold the phone to tech Web site Gizmodo.com. Police raided the home of one of Gizmodo’s editors Friday night, seizing electronic equipment and triggering legal and ethical debates across the Web.

So far, nobody has been charged with a crime.

“We’re still not saying it’s a crime,” said San Mateo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe. “The investigation has contacted as many segments of the people involved in this situation, including the person who took the phone from the German restaurant. The police know who he is and they have talked to him.”

Wagstaffe said that an outside counsel for Apple, along with Apple engineer Powell, called the District Attorney’s office on Wednesday or Thursday of last week to report a theft had occurred and they wanted it investigated. The District Attorney’s office then referred them to the Rapid Enforcement and Allied Computer Team, or REACT, a multi-jurisdictional, high-tech crime task force that operates under the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office.

REACT then sought out the warrant that was served on the home of Gizmodo writer Jason Chen, seizing several computers, a server and external hard drives, as well as copies of Chen’s paystubs and his American Express bill.

Read more in the San Jose Business Journal.

Can you get a warrant when you’re not even certain a crime has been committed?

For more on this case and updates 1-7, see this post.

Update 8: There’s an interesting exchange between Scott Greenfield and Orin Kerr over on Scott’s blog in the comments section. As to my question above as to whether you can get a warrant without certainty that a crime has even been committed, Orin has this to say:

There is no requirement of a crime before a search warrant is obtained. The only requirement is pc [probable cause] that evidence, contraband, fruits, or an instrumentality of crime exists in the place to be searched.

You can see Scott’s response in the comments.

Update 9: John Wesley Hall Jr. comments on FourthAmendment.com

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