Police broke into the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen and confiscated four computers and two servers, the tech blog reports. Gizmodo broke the news last week about Apple’s next-generation iPhone, after paying a source who found it in a California bar $5,000 for the device.
The officers were from the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT), a California law enforcement group based in Silicon Valley. In the search warrant, which Gizmodo posted, REACT officers checked a box indicating that they were looking for property “used as a means of committing a felony.”
Since the Gizmodo iPhone scoop broke last week, some have speculated that Gizmodo and its parent company, Gawker Media, might be liable for criminal prosecution for being in receipt of stolen goods under California law.
Gawker has blasted back at the police with seized-property charges of its own, claiming that the police had no legal grounds for seizing a journalist’s property. Gaby Darbyshire, Gawker’s chief operating officer, wrote to the police that Chen “tells me that he showed you an email I had sent him earlier that day that told him that he should tell you that under both state and federal law, a search warrant may not be validly issued to confiscate the property of a journalist.”
In a ruling handed down last week, a New Jersey court determined that a blogger being sued for defamation did not have full standing as a journalist and therefore was not protected under the state’s “shield law,” which protects journalists from being compelled to take part in court proceedings pertaining to their work. California has a shield law, but there is no shield law that covers federal criminal cases.
In her letter, Darbyshire further explained that Chen “tells me that you ignored him and, having been inside for a few hours already, you proceeded to remove the materials despite his protestations.”
Chen said that REACT did not damage his other property — apart, that is, from bashing in his door to get inside while he wasn’t home.