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Monday, September 20, 2010, 06:00 pm PT (09:00 pm ET)

Police interviewed Steve Jobs in iPhone prototype case

California authorities are close to wrapping up their investigation of the case involving the iPhone 4 prototype obtained by Gizmodo in April. Apple chief executive Steve Jobs was interviewed during the investigation.

Stephen Wagstaffe, chief deputy district attorney for San Mateo County, Calif., told CNET Monday that police are nearly finished with their investigation, Greg Sandoval reports. A final report could be sent to Wagstaffe "within the next few weeks."

"Wagstaffe will then review the information and determine whether to file criminal charges," the report noted. According to the district attorney, a "number of Apple employees," including Jobs, and "people connected to the case" were interviewed during the investigation.

The saga began in March when Brian Hogan reportedly "found" an iPhone left by an Apple engineer in a Redwood City, Calif., bar. After removing a false case meant to simulate the appearance of the iPhone 3GS, Hogan realized the phone was a nearly-finished prototype of the then unannounced iPhone 4. Hogan then reportedly sold Gizmodo the "exclusive rights" to review the prototype for $5,000.

Although Engadget posted the first photos of the prototype, it was Gizmodo's Jason Chen that eventually broke the story with a hands-on video of the device.

An unsealed court affidavit later revealed that Gizmodo had been quickly contacted by Jobs to request the return of the device. According to accounts documenting the phone call and emails between Jobs and Gizmodo editor Brian Lam, Lam agreed to return the prototype "on the condition that Apple provided him with a letter stating the iPhone belonged to Apple."

Gizmodo was then contacted by Apple's legal counsel formally requesting the return of the device. A subsequent police investigation resulted in a raid on Chen's home by a computer task force that confiscated several of Chen's computers and phones.

After the seizure, a lawyer for Gizmodo hinted that the website might sue authorities for the search, which was a "contravention of process." The police initially held off on analyzing data on Chen's devices until June, CNET reported.

Responding to attempts by the media to obtain court records, prosecutors argued that the search warrant affidavit should remain sealed to protect the "informant's" identity. It was later revealed that Hogan's roommate had contacted Apple Security and police "in order to absolve herself of criminal responsibility." The roommate notified police when Hogan and an associate attempted to dispose of evidence related to the case.

When questioned about the incident at the D8 conference in June, Jobs became heated, questioning whether Chen could be considered a journalist and described the "story" as having "theft," "stolen property" and "extortion."

In July, Wagstaffe again told CNET that Chen and authorities had reached an agreement to "drop attempts to search Chen's property" as Chen cooperated by providing requested information.