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.
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