I Help Orphans: “Finder” of 4G IPhone Identified and Expresses Regrets

Wired Magazine has identified the “finder” of the next generation IPhone given to Gizmodo for $5000. He is Brian Hogan, 21, whose lawyer has stressed that he regrets his actions and is a good kid who helps orphans in Kenya. I will be discussing the case on NPR’s On The Media today.

Hogan lives in Redwood City, California and has wisely obtained a lawyer, Jeffrey Bornstein. Bornstein is doing his best to clean up this mess and has stressed that this is a “kind of young man that any parent would be proud to have as their son.” He noted that Hogan volunteered in Vietnam to plant a friendship garden and helps raise money to provide medical care to orphans in Kenya.”

He certainly does sound like a good guy, but his role in this mess is hardly admirable. It would also had been a tad more admirable if Hogan came forward before — rather than wait to be outed by Wired. I am willing to accept that this was a moment of poor judgment by Hogan in taking the phone from the bar. It was the decision to accept $5000 that I find so disappointing in his conduct and raises more serious criminal questions.

Notably, Bornstein stressed that Hogan “regrets his mistake in not doing more to return the phone.” That could be an important admission if made by his client.

Section 485 of the California Penal Code states:

One who finds lost property under circumstances which give him knowledge of or means of inquiry as to the true owner, and who appropriates such property to his own use, or to the use of another person not entitled thereto, without first making reasonable and just efforts to find the owner and to restore the property to him, is guilty of theft.

What constitutes “making reasonable and just efforts” can be debated, but this would seem a phone that Apple would have wanted back. Moreover, Bronstein says that Hogan merely asked people at the bar if the phone was theirs before taking it home. One would expect a person to give a phone to the bartender or manager to hold for the rightful owner — rather than leave with the property.

The disclosure of the finder may help resolve the standoff with Gizmodo over the recent raid of its editor’s home. It sounds like Hogan is prepared to make some admissions and will likely be meeting with the police soon. The question will be how hard the prosecutors want to pursue Gizmodo for receipt of allegedly stolen goods as opposed to Hogan for possible theft.

For the full story, click here.

8 thoughts on “I Help Orphans: “Finder” of 4G IPhone Identified and Expresses Regrets”

  1. What better way to try and find the lawful owner than to sell it and then have someone write about it and then return it after than. A defense, not a good one, but a defense.

  2. But didn’t Hogan call up AppleCare, and tell them he’d found the phone? And didn’t they blow off his call as bogus? (i.e. they thought Hogan had just found a china knockoff.)

    As Turley appears to allude, the “reasonable and just efforts . . . to restore the property” element seems pretty debatable here.

  3. Oops, I should have read the article to see that Prof Turley had already quoted the CA statute. Seems to me it’s pretty clear this guy violated the statute. He knew it wasn’t abandoned property and that it was a valuable piece of property (even if it wasn’t a Mac prototype phone, any cell phone would be deemed valuable I would think). I would argue in today’s world, finding any kind of cell phone is like finding a wallet. No one would abandon any cell phone. The fact that he rushed off to get someone to pay to examine it ipso facto demonstrates that he actually knew it was a valuable object. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

  4. Ugh. This reminds me of Property Law in 1st year of law school. I don’t know what CA law says, but intuitively, the fact that he immediately rushed off and sold the right to reverse engineer the phone doesn’t look good.

  5. he should just deny everything. or just fail to recolect everything. or torture somenone so we can look forward not back.

  6. The critical element in the California code is “who appropriates such property to his own use, or to the use of another person not entitled thereto.”

    By selling the phone, did Hogan “appropriate” it for his own use? Maybe — but if a condition of his agreement with Gawker was their assurance that they would promptly return it, then maybe not. He didn’t “appropriate” it, he charged a fee so someone else could take over the effort to return it.

    Could he have returned it faster? Of course. But the code doesn’t say a person has to return the property in the most expedient manner possible, it simply says they have to use “reasonable and just efforts … to restore the property.” Last I knew, Apple got its phone back in a week’s time, which is “reasonable and just.” There’s no prohibition in the statute on doing things for your own interest in the meantime.

Comments are closed.