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Suspects in iPhone prototype case plead not guilty

Lawyers for men who allegedly found and sold iPhone prototype to a gadget blog last year pleaded not guilty to theft charges at their arraignment today.

Claudia Quiroz and Jeff Bornstein, attorneys for a man facing criminal charges relating to an iPhone prototype, enter a San Mateo county courthouse today.
Claudia Quiroz and Jeff Bornstein, attorneys for a man facing criminal charges relating to an iPhone prototype, enter a San Mateo county courthouse today.
James Martin/CNET

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.--Two men pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor theft charges in a case involving an iPhone 4 prototype the pair are accused of selling to gadget blog Gizmodo last year.

At an arraignment here this morning, lawyers for Brian Hogan, the man who allegedly found the prototype in a bar after it was left there by an Apple engineer, and Robert Sage Wallower, who is accused of that charge as well as possessing stolen property, entered their pleas before Superior Court Judge Jonathan Karesh.

Karesh scheduled a pretrial conference for October 11 and a trial date of November 28. He said that neither defendant would be required to post bail and the men could be released on their own recognizance, which is common in non-felony cases.

Brian Hogan, the person who allegedly sold the iPhone prototype. Brian Hogan's Facebook page

Jeff Bornstein, a criminal defense lawyer at K&L Gates in San Francisco who is representing Hogan, told CNET after the arraignment that he welcomed the district attorney's decision to file the charges as misdemeanors rather than felonies. That shows prosecutors are "sensitive to the facts and circumstances" of the case, he said.

The iPhone prototype in Hogan and Wallower's case shouldn't be confused with an investigation involving another unreleased iPhone. CNET reported yesterday that an employee lost control of the device at Cava22, a Mexican-themed establishment in the city's Mission District, and Apple security tracked it to a nearby home but did not find it.

Wallower, a former Navy cryptologic technician who was scheduled to graduate from University of California at Berkeley in 2010, told CNET last year in an in-person interview at his home: "I didn't see it or touch it in any manner. But I know who found it."

In early August, San Mateo County prosecutors filed misdemeanor criminal charges against the two men. They allegedly obtained the prototype iPhone 4 after Robert Gray Powell, an Apple computer engineer who was 28 years old at the time, left it in a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif.

Prosecutors obtained a warrant to search the home of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen, and indicated they might prosecute Gizmodo, but eventually decided not to file charges.

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. In addition, a second state law says any person who knowingly receives property that has been obtained illegally can be imprisoned for up to one year.