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Media coalition asking court to unseal records in iPhone probe

May 5, 2010 |  3:32 pm

News organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, as well as the First Amendment Coalition, are asking a San Mateo County Superior Court to unseal records in the criminal investigation into a missing iPhone prototype.

San Mateo County prosecutors persuaded a judge to seal all the records in the case.

In a legal brief filed with the court, The Times and other news organizations including the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, CNet and Wired.com, asked the court to make public a detective’s affidavit used to obtain a search warrant for the Fremont, Calif., home of Jason Chen, the 29-year-old technology blogger who had gained possession of the missing phone.

An attorney for Brian Hogan, the 21-year-old man who found the phone, is expected to oppose the request. A hearing has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Making those documents public would reveal whether prosecutors and Superior Court Judge Clifford Cretan considered shield laws protecting journalists before raiding Chen’s home. It would also shed light on what crime was being investigated and what evidence investigators had that such a crime had occurred.

"The search warrant records at issue here are judicial records to which the press and public have a constitutional right of access, and the order sealing these records did not -- and could not -- comply with the procedural and substantive requirements for sealing," according to the brief. "The sealing order is therefore invalid and unconstitutional and should be vacated."

Roger Myers, a partner with the San Francisco firm Holme Roberts & Owen, drafted the brief.

California law says that search warrants "shall be open to the public as a judicial record" no later than 10 days after a judge signs it. All records in the case were sealed last week. The court clerk’s office refused to provide a copy of the court order sealing them.

In a Wednesday article, The Times examined the ties between private industry and the state high-tech crime task force that conducted the raid.

-- Jessica Guynn

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