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Leaked iPhone Prototype Leads to Criminal Charges

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on August 11, 2011 8:44 AM

Last year, a leaked iPhone prototype set off a flurry of reaction from Apple-lovers everywhere. Unfortunately for the two California men who sold the leaked iPhone, Brian Hogan, 22, and Sage Wallower, 28, it also set off a reaction from Apple itself, and now the duo are facing criminal charges over the iPhone prototype.

Hogan initially found the prototype at a Redwood City, California bar.

It's believed that the phone was unwittingly left behind by an Apple engineer. Hogan picked up the phone, and showed it to his friend, Wallower, reports Ars Technica.

The two then decided to shop around to different tech sites to see if they could sell the prototype and photos of the new (and then unreleased) phone to the media, according to Ars Technica.

They succeeded in doing just that, selling the prototype to Gizmodo, an online publication. Gizmodo eventually ran a story on it, and while the publication was initially unsure about the authenticity of the phone, any doubts were summarily quelled when Apple demanded their phone back, according to Ars Technica.

Hogan and Wallower are now facing charges levied by the San Mateo County District Attorney's office. Both have been charged with misappropriation of lost property.

Unfortunately for the duo, the law in California is not exactly "finder's keepers, loser's weepers." Under California law, if someone finds lost property, and they have knowledge of who the true owner of the property is, they should make reasonable efforts to find the owner and give the property back to them. If they decide to appropriate or use the property for their own benefit without trying to find the true owner first, they may be guilty of theft.

In Hogan and Wallower's case, it seems clear that they should have had knowledge that Apple was the true owner of the leaked iPhone. Accordingly, if they had returned the iPhone prototype over to Apple in the first place, they probably would not be facing any charges at all.

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