Lost iPhone 4 prototype sellers escape jail

iPhone 4
Image caption iPhone 4 went public before Apple's official launch

Two men who sold a lost iPhone 4 prototype to technology blog Gizmodo have been sentenced to one year of probation, avoiding jail time.

Brian John Hogan, 22, and Sage Robert Wallower, 28, were fined $250 (£159) - but allowed to keep the $4,750 (£3,014) they made from the sale.

They will also have to do 40 hours of public service.

An Apple engineer left the device at a bar in Redwood, California in March 2010, before it was unveiled.

Mr Hogan and Mr Wallower both pleaded no contest to a misdemeanour charge of theft of lost property.

Gizmodo journalists, including the editor Jason Chen, whose home was raided by police after the blog obtained the device for $5,000 (£3,173), escaped prosecution.

Image caption Gizmodo editor Jason Chen showed the prototype in a video

Technology website CNET reported that San Mateo county DA Richard Wagstaffe asked for jail time, but the judge ruled otherwise.

"The judge considered that Mr Wallower had served in the armed forces and Mr Hogan was enrolled in San Jose State, and neither had any criminal record, and decided that jail time wasn't required.

"This was a couple of youthful people who should have known better."

A California law states that anyone who finds lost property and knows who the owner might be but "appropriates such property to his own use" is guilty of theft.

Lost iPhone Saga

Gray Powell, the Apple computer engineer who lost the phone, forgot it while out celebrating his 27th birthday at a German beer garden called Haus Staudt.

The phone was disguised as an iPhone 3G version, but the people who obtained it worked out its true identity.

After Apple discovered that the handset had been sold to Gizmodo, it demanded that the device be returned.

The Cupertino-based electronics giant even contacted police who searched Mr Chen's home and confiscated three Apple laptops, a 32GB Apple iPad, a 16GB iPhone and a Samsung digital camera.

Gizmodo eventually did give the prototype back - but only after it published photos and a video of the device on its website.

The story became known as The Complete Lost iPhone Saga.

Former Gizmodo editorial director Brian Lam reflected on the incident in his blog.

"An hour after the story went live, the phone rang and the number was from Apple HQ," he wrote, adding that the call was from the former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died on 5 October 2011.

Mr Jobs asked to have his phone back.

"He wasn't demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny," wrote Mr Lam.

"I appreciate you had your fun with our phone and I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the sales guy who lost it," continued Mr Lam, quoting Mr Jobs. "But we need the phone back because we can't let it fall into the wrong hands."

"Before he hung up, he asked me, 'What do you think of it?"

"I said, 'It's beautiful."

Letter of apology

When Mr Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 at an event in San Francisco on 7 June 2010, he joked about the lost phone incident.

"Stop me if you've already seen this," he said, as he introduced the device.

On his blog, Mr Lam wrote that although the story was a huge scoop and he did not regret the way Gizmodo handled it from a professional point of view, he was still sorry.

On 14 September, a few weeks before the Apple co-founder died of a respiratory arrest, Mr Lam sent him a letter of apology.

"Steve, a few months have passed since all that iPhone 4 stuff went down, and I just wanted to say that I wish things happened differently.

"I probably should have quit right after the first story was published for several different reasons.

"I didn't know how to say that without throwing my team under the bus, so I didn't.

"Now I've learned it's better to lose a job I don't believe in any more than to do it well and keep it just for that sake.

"I'm sorry for the problems I caused you."

He never received a reply.

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