San Mateo County's investigation may expand beyond Gawker Media's Gizmodo.com, which acknowledged buying the prototype for $5,000, and the unknown person who sold it to the gadget blog, the source said. Police obtained a warrant to search a Gizmodo editor's home on Friday evening.
CNET has not been able to confirm whether the felony investigation is targeting Gizmodo staff, the iPhone seller, or someone else. A blog post at NYTimes.com, citing unnamed law enforcement officials, said charges could be filed against the buyer of the phone--meaning Gizmodo employees.
Under a California law dating back to 1872, any person who finds lost property and knows who the owner is likely to be - but "appropriates such property to his own use" - is guilty of theft. There are no exceptions for journalists. In addition, a second state law says that any person who knowingly receives property that has been obtained illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year.
California law professors aren't convinced that Gizmodo committed a crime.
For more on this story, read Police poised to expand iPhone prototype probe on CNET News.