The Los Angeles Times has joined a group of news organizations that asked a judge to help reveal why a journalist had his home raided last month after he helped to reveal the next-generation iPhone via Gizmodo.com.
The request was denied Thursday by San Mateo County Judge Stephen Hall, who expressed unwillingness to challenge another judge's issuance of a search warrant for the home of Gizmodo writer Jason Chen. Instead he told the coalition of media groups go back to the original judge with its demand to have the search warrant affidavit unsealed.
The local district attorney opposed the unsealing on the grounds that the names of two other people were included and that the revelation of their identities could hinder an ongoing investigation.
Journalists want to know why one of their own would have his home searched without consent, with several computers seized, when reporters are protected under California's “shield law” from having to reveal sources or source material to authorities.
Chen helped his employer reveal the phone after a man said he found it at a bar and sold it to Gizmodo parent Gawker for $5,000. It has since been returned to Apple, but Gizmodo refuses to take down pictures and information about the phone. Chen also penned a piece about how the phone was lost and then found. It has become one of the more sensational sagas in Silicon Valley in years.
On Wednesday the Times took a look at the multi-agency task force charged with investigating high-tech crime in Silicon Valley. It's the one that broke into Chen's home. And it has close ties to industry companies, including Apple.
That a company like Apple could unleash a public police force on a journalist well within his bounds to report on the revelation of a new product should give reporters everywhere second thoughts about their fawning coverage of the computer maker.
However, at least one lawyer argues Gizmodo and Gawker ultimate could be found liable for receiving property in should have known was stolen.