Friday, April 30, 2010

iPhone Drama - California Style

Twenty-one-year-old Redwood City, California, resident Brian J. Hogan, the man identified by as the guy who found — and later sold — Apple's missing iPhone in a bar last month, has a message for Apple, the engineer who originally lost the precious gadget, and the tech world at large: Sorry about that.

Following a trail of "clues" on social-networking sites and confirming his ID with a source "involved in the iPhone find," Wired named Hogan on Thursday as the bar patron who made off with Apple's top-secret iPhone prototype and then sold it to Gizmodo for $5,000 after an Apple software engineer left the precious phone on a bar stool.

Up until now, Hogan's identity has been a mystery to the public, but the 21-year-old college student (or at least, he was a college student as of 2008) may have sensed that he was in trouble after all the hoopla over Gizmodo's gigantic iPhone scoop last week and the subsequent fallout, including a raid on Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's house by San Mateo sheriff's deputies armed with a search warrant.

Hogan has now lawyered up, and in a statement released through his attorney, the young man says he "regrets his mistake in not doing more to return the phone," and that he thought his $5,000 deal with Gizmodo was only "so that they could review the phone," Wired reports.

According to Hogan's attorney's statement, Hogan didn't see the lost iPhone until another patron at the Redwood City bar came up and asked him if it was his; Hogan apparently then asked a few other patrons if they'd lost the device before heading out, iPhone in hand, according to Wired.

Initial reports had it that the man who'd taken the iPhone tried repeatedly to call the Apple Care support line to return the phone, but according to the statement in the Wired story, Hogan never personally called Apple, although a friend of his offered to. The owners of the bar where the iPhone was lost also told Wired that Hogan never bothered to call them about the lost hardware, although the anguished Apple engineer who mislaid the iPhone "returned several times" to see if it had turned up.

Meanwhile, CNET is reporting that Hogan had help in finding a buyer for the lost iPhone. The "go-between," according to CNET: 27-year-old Sage Robert Wallower, a UC Berkeley student who "contacted technology sites" about the handset. Wallower told CNET that he "didn't see it or touch it in any manner" but knows "who found it," adding, "I need to speak to a lawyer ... I think I have said too much."

No one has been charged yet in the case of the lost iPhone, but a deputy district attorney for San Mateo County tells Wired that Hogan is "very definitely ... being looked at as a suspect in theft." (In California, finding a piece of lost property isn't a case of "finders keepers"; if you find a lost item and keep it without making "reasonable" efforts to find the real owner, you could be charged with a crime.)

Gizmodo's Jason Chen also has yet to be charged; law-enforcement officials have reportedly said they'll hold off on searching the computers and servers seized from Chen's house until they decide whether California's shield law for journalists applies to him.

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