Defendants Plead 'No Contest' in Missing iPhone 4 Case

The case of the missing iPhone 4 is finally over. Brian Hogan (below), 22, of Redwood City, and Robert Sage Wallower (pictured), 28, have changed their pleas from "not guilty" to "no contest" in the "lost iPhone" case, stemming from 2010. The pair, who had been accused of selling the device to Gizmodo last year, received sentences of one year of probation, 40 hours of community service, and a payment of $250 in restitution to Apple.

Brian Hogan was the man who allegedly found the iPhone 4 prototype in Gourmet Haus Staudt, a German beer garden in Redwood City, Calif., in April of 2010. Once Hogan discovered it was no ordinary iPhone 3GS (it had been disguised with a 3GS case), Sage Wallower allegedly helped him shop the device around to technology sites, eventually setting on a deal with Gizmodo.

The pair was charged with misdemeanor theft in early August. They allegedly obtained the prototype iPhone 4 after Robert Gray Powell, an Apple QA engineer, accidentally left it in Gourmet Haus Staudt.

Although it has the same effect as pleading guilty, a no contest plea, or if you prefer, nolo contendre, allows a criminal defendant to deny the act at a later civil trial. The effective admission of guilt can't be used in a civil lawsuit against Hogan and Wallower, which Apple could, if it wanted to, choose to pursue.

The case of the lost iPhone 4 became so convoluted that Steve Jobs, speaking at the All Things D conference in June of 2010, said the story could make a good movie.

Quite a few people believe in the old adage "Finders, Keepers," but in California, that adage doesn't necessarily apply. A California law dating back to 1872 says:

"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."

The argument could, and was, made that since it was obviously an iPhone 4 prototype, Hogan and Wallower should have known the owner was "Apple" and tried to return the device.

Apple engineers seem to have fumble fingers with iPhone prototypes. Apple lost yet another iPhone prototype, this one for the iPhone 4S, in late July, at Cava22 in the Mission District of San Francisco.