Gizmodo editor Jason Chen will get his stuff back. The San Mateo, California, district attorney petitioned for and was granted a withdrawal of the search warrant that his office used to seize a trove of materials from Chen's home in the purloined–iPhone 4 prototype investigation.
"All items seized shall be returned forthwith to Gizmodo.com and Jason Chen" orders the order, which was brought to our attention by a report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which also obtained a copy (pdf) of the court document.
The materials — which include computers, hard drives, mobile phones, and more — were taken from Chen's home by the police in one of the more dramatic scenes in the still-ongoing Gizmodophone opera buffa that began when luckless Apple engineer Gray Powell left his iPhone 4 prototype in a Silicon Valley bierstube.
That moment of carelessness began a multi-character drama starring Powell, Chen, Steve Jobs, and thief, lucky-ducky, opportunist, extortionist and/or heartless bastard Brian Hogan — take your pick from that last string of descriptors, depending upon your opinion of the entire affair.
The EFF made its own point of view clear in its report of the search warrant's withdrawal: "As EFF repeatedly noted at the time, the warrant-backed search of Chen's home was illegal as it violated California Penal Code section 1524(g)'s prohibition against the issuance of warrants for 'unpublished information obtained or prepared in gathering, receiving or processing of information for communication to the public'."
The EFF goes on to note, however, that the order to give Chen back his equipment doesn't put the matter to bed: "As we pointed out, the police could (for example) attempt to subpoena the same material without running afoul of section 1524(g) and still proceed with their case."
As sagacious backstop Yogi Berra explained: "It ain't over till it's over." ®