Over a month ago, police seized a pile of equipment from Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home in order to investigate the case of the misappropriated prototype iPhone. Gizmodo (and about ten million armchair lawyers on the internet) claimed the seizure was illegal because of "shield laws" intended to protect journalists from being compelled to reveal their sources.
After a month of figuring out how best to proceed, the investigation against Chen and Gizmodo is moving forward. A "special master" has been appointed to search Chen's seized belongings... but only for those items related to the iPhone prototype. This special master, who under court order will remain anonymous, is an impartial, unpaid volunteer, likely a former judge or law professor. The special master is supposed to be unconnected to the case in any way other than being a court-appointed agent seeking evidence in the case -- in other words, no matter how some may try to spin this, no one connected to Apple is rifling through Chen's family photos, credit card info, or lolcats archives. Once the special master's investigation concludes, he will present his evidence to a judge; the judge will then hear any objections Chen and his lawyers may have. After that, the judge will decide what evidence, if any, to forward on to the district attorney.
No charges have been filed as of yet in this ongoing saga, and the special master's investigation could take as long as two months. If the special master finds enough evidence to support a criminal investigation, there's no doubt Apple will push for a civil lawsuit even in the unlikely event San Mateo County decides not to file criminal charges independently. At the recent All Things Digital conference, Steve Jobs said many people encouraged him to "let it slide," but Jobs said he'd "rather quit" than do so.
[Via The Loop]