A UC Berkeley student was allegedly involved in the story of the lost prototype iPhone which made headlines on April 19 after details of the under-wraps phone were published with great fanfare on Gizmodo (above).

As reported in Wired today, Brian J. Hogan, a 21-year-old resident of Redwood City, found what is believed to be Appleā€™s next-generation iPhone which was bought by Gizmodo. However, CNet is reporting that Hogan had help finding a buyer for the phone from Sage Robert Wallower, a 27-year-old UC Berkeley student and former Navy cryptologic technician.

Wallower apparently contacted technology sites about the iPhone. The device was lost by an Apple engineer last month. Police in San Mateo County have said they are investigating the lost phone as a possible theft.

Read the full story here.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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5 Comments

  1. JoanRoos,

    Perhaps or perhaps not. The facts of this story are a bit unclear:

    All accounts seem to agree that some unnamed fourth party approached Hogan with the phone. The original press story has it that Hogan then made several attempts to return it to Apple who generally ignored him. Apple did, however, remotely “brick” the phone (remotely triggered its software, causing the phone to be disabled). “Bricking” the phone makes it more difficult to investigate to whom it might be returned. It was then that Hogan sought out interested press and Wallower got involved. Gawker Media paid $5,000, to take pictures of the phone inside and out, and successfully return it to Apple. (The now ublic letter from Apple’s legal council to Gawker, and Gawker’s response, are quite funny. The gist is Apple’s lawyer saying “Hey, that’s ours. Give it back!” and Gawker replying “As we said in the article, we guess this could very well be Apple’s, and whoever it belongs to we’d like to give it back. Here is the reporter’s phone number. Schedule and appointment when it is mutually convenient for you to go to him and pick it up.”)

    Thereafter, the police obtained a warrant and seized the reporters computers, in an effort to discover his sources for the story.

    What you describe – selling “found” property and making no attempt to return it – is legally a form of theft in California. However…

    If the original story is accurate, a good faith effort was made to return the phone ASAP but Apple did not indicate any interest in getting it back. (Hearing the original facts of the case, before the police raid, not a few people concluded that Apple might very well have “leaked” the phone on purpose, not “lost” it.)

    Moreover, it isn’t clear (to me at least) that Gawker Media actually bought the phone in any strict sense of the term. It is arguable that they paid for the right to photograph the device, get a news story about its loss, and prominently post a public “FOUND” notice (which, in fact, led to Apple’s retrieving the phone).

    Suppose the events had played out differently: Hogan found the phone, tried to contact Apple but was ignored, realizing it was a unique item took detailed photos to make clear its identity, and distributed posters saying “FOUND – contact xxx-xxxx”. I spot some of these posters, snarf them, and sell them to Gawker Media for $500 (not $5000 since they aren’t as a high a quality as the shots Gawker could have taken). Gawker contacts the finder to verify the story and runs it. Apple notices and retrieves the phone. Has there been any theft? Did anyone in this case do anything mean? Or merely publicize the lost item whose loss is, incidentally, an important news story? It’s not so clear, is it?

    Of additional concern in this case is whether or not the police acted legitimately in obtaining and exercising the warrant. To the extent that the transaction was the sale of a news tip rather than the sale of stolen merchandise, the police were obligated to tell the judge that they were after the computers of a *journalist*, quite possibly only to discover his *sources*. There is a law in California against issuing such a warrant. Moreover, Gawker Media alleges that even if the warrant was valid, the police executed it in a faulty manner by breaking into the journalists home during hours not authorized by the warrant.

    My point is: You are right that it would be mean to sell rather than trying to return found property of significant value – indeed, in California, it would criminal. It’s just not so clear from the accounts so far that that is really what happened, and there are quite plausible allegations that the police acted illegally in pursuing this matter. Time will tell. Don’t rush to judgment.

  2. This was a very mean thing these people did. Decent people return lost property ASAP. They do not attempt to profit from the innocent mistakes of others. However, it looks like they will get the just reward they deserve since their legal fees and hassles will be far more than the reported $5000 could cover.

  3. We’re not offering any view on whether Sage or anyone involved in the iPhone news did anything illegal. We’re just interested in the Berkeley angle.

  4. Sage didnt do anything immoral or illegal! His friend found a possible iphone, Sage forwarded pics to friends and nerds who would be interested in seeing it and who confirm if it was in fact a real apple product!