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San Mateo judge to release iPhone search warrant

May 14, 2010 | 10:40 am

A San Mateo County judge approved the unsealing of the search warrant used in the raid on the home of a blogger who had reported on an iPhone prototype, agreeing with media lawyers that the public's right to know the reasoning behind the search outweighed the concerns of investigators conducting the case.

The affidavit -- the document in which the argument for obtaining the search warrant was laid out -- will be released to the public at 11 a.m. PDT.

Judge Clifford Cretan said he had initially agreed to seal the search warrant to protect the interest of Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen as a journalist, but that circumstances had since changed. The case has attracted widespread scrutiny, including questions about whether Chen should have been protected by state and federal shield laws, and the ties between Apple Inc. and the high-tech task force that conducted the raid.

"I know the investigation is still ongoing but the immediacy of what was happening in the first few days has passed," Cretan said, noting that the identities of the individuals named in the affidavit are already known. "I can no longer say that there was an overriding interest that continues to overcome the right of the public."

"This was a great victory for the public's right to know," said Roger Myers, an attorney representing media organizations including the Times, the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Wired.com and CNET. "And specifically the rights to know about the evidence and the information that was available to law enforcement and to the court when a search warrant was issued to search the home and seize the computer of a journalist."

Chris Feasel, a deputy district attorney for San Mateo County, had opposed the unsealing of the warrant. "I respect the judge’s decision," he said. "I disagreed with it, but that's the process."

"There is nothing to suggest that journalists can't be criminals too," he added. "We are investigating crimes here, not looking for sources or unpublished information. We are looking for evidence of a crime."

Update 10:55 a.m.: Affidavit will be released at 11 a.m., not 2 p.m. as the post previously stated.

-- Jessica Guynn in San Mateo and David Sarno in Los Angeles

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