A close read of the search warrant police used in the Gizmodo-iPhone search-and-seizure suggests that police are looking for information about BOTH the seller AND buyer of the “stolen iPhone prototype.” (See details below).
Now, it’s possible that the information the police recover may incriminate the SELLER of the allegedly stolen iPhone but not the BUYER (for example, if the SELLER knew the iPhone was stolen, but Gawker didn’t know it was an iPhone and/or didn’t believe it was stolen).
But it’s also possible that Gawker Media executives and/or Jason Chen may charged with crimes.
What seems increasingly unlikely is that the police just wantonly violated California’s journalist shield law in an attempt to uncover Gizmodo’s sources merely to determine the identity of the SELLER of the iPhone. Given Gizmodo’s prominence as a news site, it seems unlikely that the police would expect to win an argument that Jason Chen was not a journalist.
(It does seem possible that the police are using Gizmodo’s potential culpability as a buyer of stolen goods as a Trojan Horse to learn the identity of the SELLER–but don’t actually expect to charge Gizmodo with anything. Based on the legal TV shows we’ve watched, we imagine this is the sort of thing that would drive defence attorneys insane with rage.)
Here’s what police were looking for at Jason Chen’s house. Note the multiple references to “stolen iPhone prototype” and “buyer” and “seller”:
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