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Gizmodo hack won't face court over 'lost' iPhone

US prosecutors have decided not to bring charges against a tech journalist who paid for an iPhone 4 prototype that had been left on a bar stool by an Apple employee on a beery night out.

Gizmodo's Jason Chen must be breathing a sigh of relief after Californian Assistant District Attorney Morley Pitt decided that Chen's journalistic sources would probably be protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment.

"The difficulty we faced is that Mr. Chen and Gizmodo were primarily, in their view, engaged in a journalistic endeavour to conduct an investigation into the phone and type of phone it was and they were protected by the shield law," said Pitt, according to an AP report.

"We concluded it is a very grey area, they do have a potential claim and this was not the case with which we were going to push the envelope."

Chen had his back doors kicked in by Californian cops after he published pictures of the as-yet-unreleased iPhone on the tech site, having bought the prototype - which was disguised as an iPhone 3G - from Brian Hogan and Sage Wallower who said they found the gadget unnatended in a beer bar close to Apple's Cupertino HQ.

The finders are now weepers after both were charged with misappropriation of lost property, with an additional charge of possession of stolen property brought against the latter.

The tech site published several click-grabbing articles over the next week or so, including one in which they revealed the identity of the hapless Apple drone who had been entrusted with the secret gadget.

Gizmodo boss Gaby Darbyshire said: "While we have always believed that we were acting fully within the law, it has inevitably been stressful for the editor concerned, Jason Chen, and we are glad that we can finally put this matter behind us."