I don't know much about east coast US police but the NY ones certainly don't give a shit about stuff left in public places by drunk people.
(EDIT: Put another way: according to the original story, the finder claimed to think there was nothing special about the iPhone at that time. If you're at a decent bar in the middle of Silicon Valley, do you really think it's that sketchy to turn an iPhone 3G into the bartender or management?)
Actually giving the phone to a stranger, never really crossed my mind, and call NYC police? HA.
However, they obviously knew the owner SINCE HE WAS CONTACTED AFTER THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE, and they failed to return it. They did the equivalent of checking the address book when they went on Facebook and then didn't do anything to return it.
Even sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org would've been more likely to get the phone back to Apple.
He is a petty criminal...but probably just an opportunist rather than having malicious intent. Paradoxically, it might have been safer for him to set up a blog called ifound-iphone.com and post pictures in a 'LOL it came from the future' fashion: naivete might be a mitigating factor.
But Gizmodo/Gawker has no such excuse. Their whole business is the exchange of reader attention for advertising. They are leaders in their market sector, with a deep understanding of the tech industry and its role in the economy. and they have already been warned by Apple's outside counsel that offering money for hot information is an incitement to criminality.
With all this knowledge and experience, when they got hold of a prototype - which they themselves say was well disguised with a 'very ingenious solution to protect future designs from lookeyloos', they chose to disassemble it and publish detailed information about its manufacture, with a completely reckless disregard for anyone's business interests but their own.
If I were an attorney on Apple's or the DA's staff, my approach would be to forget about the seller, because his testimony isn't even necessary to bring suit against or prosecute the Gizmodo/Gawker folks. In fact, if they do offer to give him up, and I bet they will, I'd say I didn't care.
(I'm not an attorney BTW! It might be professionally unethical to behave like that if the information was being offered.)
I don't know about this guy but I probably recall 5% of all names of people I meet at a bar, 0% first and last names. I have a hard time faulting him if there is evidence of him calling Apple support and detailing the situations.
Wouldn't the owner of an Apple prototype most likely be...Apple?
Surely you're not asking me to buy the idea that they thought it was the engineers's personal property, and that if they sent it to Apple, it might never find its way back to him. That's an insult to even an average intelligence.
Obviously the "finder" knew it was Apple hardware and the thug who stole my XBox knew it was Microsoft. The finder DID call the "owner" and most likely has it recorded. I'm not defending Gizmodo at all but I think the thief has a more compelling argument in court.
Besides, the guy sold the thing for $5k and apparently reached out to Gizmodo and Engadget, I find it hard to believe he ever actually tried to return it.
But personally, I doubt the story is false. A drunk guy forgetting his phone is something that happens every day.
Lest, you know, someone make a similar accusation about either:
sometime in the future. This is one of the basis' upon which society works.
1. He took money for the phone. You gotta know this is wrong.
2. He shopped around trying to dump the phone.
3. Unless the bar is keeping quiet, he didn't try to return it.
4. Apple seemed to reclaim it in a huge hurry once it got public on Gizmodo. That suggests they were taking its disclosure seriously. Did they think it WOULDN'T cause a huge uproar before it showed up on Gizmodo and then say, "Oh wait, the press _tells people about things!_ Duh, we should have seen this coming."
The story we've got so far has some pretty bizarre turns, and they really don't seem consistent with a bunch of unfortunate coincidences besetting good samaritans.
Fortunately, our opinion is meaningless. The whole point of these investigations is to determine wrongdoing.
The fact is that the finder of the iPhone Prototype "sold" the property that never belonged to him to Gizmodo.
The words of the finder was published by none other than Gizmodo, who definitely has everything to gain if the statements were true. That's conflict of interest.
To cite some others who had found this specific California Law:
California law regulates what you can do when you find lost property in the state. Section 2080 of the Civil Code provides that any person who finds and takes charge of a lost item acts as "a depositary for the owner." If the true owner is known, the finder must notify him/her/it within a reasonable time and "make restitution without compensation, except a reasonable charge for saving and taking care of the property."
Now, where was the name dropping by Gizmodo came from? The finder of the phone claimed that the phoned was "remotely bricked" the day after. Certainly someone knew who the phone was assigned to.
Those are the facts.
By the time the owner contacted the finder, it was in Gizmodo's hands (which I believe was a few days after the finder contacted apple).