DA Withdraws iPhone 4 Warrant, Returns Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen's Possessions

The iPhone 4 may be available to the general public, but the police investigation into the leaked device that Gizmodo purchased last spring is still going strong. Now there’s been a new development: the EFF reports that the San Mateo District Attorney has withdrawn the warrant it used to search Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s house last April, when it confiscated multiple computers, hard drives, and other electronics.

Update: The Wall Street Journal reports that Gawker has reached an agreement with investigators. Chen’s materials will be returned, and Gawker/Chen will be voluntarily handing over materials deemed “relevant to the case” by a court appointee.

The seizure of these possessions was quite controversial ā€” the EFF said it was illegal and should have been protected by California’s Shield Law. When I called the District Attorney about the case in April, I was told that the investigation was on hold as these issues were considered, and that Chen’s property was sitting in a warehouse untouched. It’s apparently been sitting there for months. At the time, I noted how bizarre the series of events were:

When I asked if it was typical for the DA to evaluate the relevance of these shield laws after removing evidence, Wagstaffe did concede that it was unusual. Which makes the situation extremely od dā€” it should have been readily apparent that Gawker would defend its actions using this shield law defense, why put the brakes on after the fact?

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Chen is in the clear. The EFF says that police could “attempt to subpoena the same material without running afoul of section 1524(g) and still proceed with their case.”

Document via EFF