Tables Turn in iPhone Who-done-what Inquiry

FREE  PRESS/PUBLIC INFORMATION — In a court proceeding where lawyers for the press are trying to learn why a blogger's home was raided by police for information the lawyers say is protected by the shield for journalists, prosecutors are trying to block that discovery by stressing protection for their own confidential source, reports David Kravets for Wired.com.

California prosecutors investigating Gizmodo’s purchase of a
prototype iPhone have offered a new argument for keeping details of the
probe a secret: Public disclosure could compromise “the identity of an
informer.”


The claim, made in a court filing Thursday, is the first indication
that police cultivated an inside source prior to raiding the home of
Gizmodo editor Jason Chen, whose employer paid $5,000 for a prototype 4G
iPhone found at a Redwood City bar.

Wired.com, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Time and other news
outlets have asked a California judge to unseal
the search warrant affidavit
that led to the raid on Chen’s Fremont,
California, home last month. We argued that under California law, the
public has a right to see the documents that led San Mateo
County Superior Court Judge Clifford V. Cretan to approve the search. A
hearing in San Mateo County Superior Court has been set for Friday.

Last month’s search raised questions whether the authorities overstepped
their boundaries
in breaking into the home of the Gizmodo
journalist and seizing  six computers and other items.

Prosecutors in the investigation initially said last week they wanted
to keep the document sealed to avoid tipping off two unnamed people of
interest. But in a court
filing
(.pdf), prosecutors cited a provision of the California
Evidence Code that protects informants from identification.

The right to access court documents does not “outweigh the Peoples’
right to protect the sanctity of an ongoing investigation,” wrote San
Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Chris Feasel, “nor does it
outweigh the rights of the people to protect the identity of persons who
may have provided information to law enforcement in confidence during
the initial stages of investigation.”

Prosecutors have rejected a proposed compromise that would unseal the
affidavit with any sensitive names redacted.


On April 19, Gizmodo dropped a bombshell on the gadget world with a detailed
look at the iPhone prototype
an Apple employee had apparently lost
at a bar. The attorney for 21-year-old
Brian J. Hogan
has acknowledged it was his client who found the
device, and passed it to Gizmodo in exchange for a payment. Gizmodo
publisher Gawker Media says it paid $5,000 for the iPhone, and returned
the phone to Apple following publication of the story.

Hogan’s attorney has acknowledged that his client met with
investigators, but declined to say whether authorities executed a search
on Hogan.

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