Judge forces more delays in unsealing of iPhone raid documents

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An Apple Store in San Francisco. Credit: Russel A. Daniels / AP.

A San Mateo County judge refused to hear arguments from a coalition of media lawyers seeking access to details of a search warrant served by a task force that raided a blogger’s home on April 23 in a case involving a missing iPhone prototype from Apple Inc -- a move that could delay a hearing on the matter for at least another week. San Mateo Dist. Atty. Steve Wagstaffe did, however, say that the relevant parts of the search warrant were sealed to protect the names of two individuals of interest in the investigation. Wagstaffe said neither individual was an Apple employee.


In a complicated web of judicial and legal wrangling, Judge Stephen M. Hall refused to take the bench to hear media arguments, instead directing attorneys for the Los Angeles Times, Wired, the Associated Press and others to bring the matter before Judge Clifford Cretan, the official who had approved the original search warrant.

Hall said he did not want to ‘trample on’ another judge’s decision.

That warrant enabled members of the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) to raid Gizmodo blogger Jason Chen’s house and seize dozens of items, including computers, digital cameras and hard drives.

Wagstaffe has said REACT is investigating an allegation that relates to felony theft, but that officials have yet to determine that a crime has been committed.

On Wednesday, a Times article examined the ties between the technology industry and REACT, the state high-tech crime task force that conducted the raid.

Objecting to Hall’s refusal to hear the arguments, Roger Myers, a lawyer for the media coalition, said ‘the judge’s ruling was consistent with the interests of the DA’s office and law enforcement’ rather than with the public’s interest in discovering the details of the raid.

Officials also noted that the sealed affidavit -- the document in which the argument for obtaining the search warrant was laid out -- is not a public record, and is therefore not subject to public records requests made by reporters and media lawyers.

Media lawyers said they were attempting to contact Cretan’s office to get a hearing set for Thursday or Friday of next week.

-- David Sarno and Jessica Guynn