updated 09:50 pm EDT, Wed April 4, 2012
Botched search backfired on company, police
The attorney for the man accused by Apple of having pilfered an iPhone 4S prototype from a San Francisco bar last summer has suddenly gone silent on the case and refuses to confirm or deny the possibility of a settlement. Lawyer David Monroe had announced near the end of last year that settlement discussions had ended "and we're moving forward" with a lawsuit against Apple with his client, Sergio Calderone, reports NetworkWorld.
Calderone's home was searched by a combination of Apple security employees and four officers from the San Francisco Police Department. Then-senior investigator Tony Colon and an unnamed colleague used the police to persuade Calderone to agree to a warrantless search of his house, car and computer, threatening they would come back with a warrant if they were denied. Colon and Apple apparently believed that the missing prototype was in Calderone's possession based on "Find My iPhone" data, but the search did not reveal the lost prototype.
Calderone, who often changed his story during the early days of the investigation, admitted only to having been in the same bar (Cava22) at "around the same time" as when the prototype, left behind by an Apple employee, was stolen. Security footage from the bar was mysteriously erased before police investigating the crime could get a look at it, making it impossible to verify that Calderone had had anything to do with the theft.
The SFPD also changed its story, originally denying that any raid took place but then admitting it had given Apple "permission" to take some police officers with the security men to track down the iPhone. It later launched an internal investigation on the matter.
Under California law, people who find obviously-valuable property are under a legal obligation to make a good-faith effort to locate the owner and return the goods. That law is part of what tripped up iPhone 4 prototype "finder" Brian Hogan, who ended up serving a year of probation and community service along with a compatriot for their roles in a 2010 lost-prototype case that made headlines. Apple routinely sends employees out with prototypes (usually disguised in some way) for real-world field testing, but the program carries risks -- as Apple has learned twice so far.
The quasi-legal nature of the search and lack of hard evidence doomed Apple's ability to prosecute the case further, and the district attorney declined to press charges. Calderone hired Monroe to pursue a lawsuit over the "outrageous" abridgement of Calderone's rights, intimidation and coercion, the cooperation of the police in what was clearly an illegal warrantless search and other abuses Monroe was clearly eager to pursue in court.
NetworkWorld columnist Paul McNamera tried to follow-up on Monroe's promise of a trial "within a few weeks" from last December and discovered the attorney would now only answer "I have no comment about that" when asked about any aspect of the case. Such an answer is a hint, though not conclusive proof, that Monroe and Calderone may have reached a settlement with Apple that requires both of them to refrain from discussing the case.
Apple's then-head of global security, former FBI agent John Theriault, suddenly retired in November, after the SFPD raid was revealed. Apple has not commented on the case since the news of the missing prototype originally broke. [via NetworkWorld]