Looks like Apple paid off victim of ham-handed iPhone search

Lawyer goes tellingly mum about threatened lawsuit

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It would seem that the missing iPhone prototype wasn't "priceless," after all. Apple has apparently reached an out-of-court settlement to keep a San Francisco man from suing the company over what his attorney -- and virtually everyone else -- called an "outrageous" warrantless search of the man's home, car and computer last summer by two Apple employees accompanied by four city police officers.

Here's why I say "apparently reached." In early December, the man's then-talkative attorney, David Monroe, told CNET that settlement negotiations "have ended and we're moving forward" with a lawsuit that would be filed within a few weeks. Monroe was not shy about explaining his client's case to the press.

Having heard nothing more in the subsequent four months, I called Monroe yesterday and asked if he could update me on the status of that lawsuit.

"I have no comment about that," he replied.

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I asked if there had been a settlement between Apple and his client, Sergio Calderone.

"I have no comment about that."

I mentioned the bit about him saying in December that a lawsuit was then imminent - within a few weeks -- and asked what had changed since then.

"I have no comment about that."

I was about to try a fourth round but by then we were both chuckling over the futility of the exercise.

monroe

So you tell me: Does this sound like an attorney whose client has accepted a settlement that carries the common stipulation that neither he nor his lawyer will blab about it? That's what I took from all those "no comments" and Monroe's bemused indulgence of my questioning, but I suppose there are other possible explanations.

And Monroe's answer was exactly the one I had expected before making the call. After all, does anyone really think Apple wanted this dirty laundry flapping around in an open courtroom?

If you're new to the story, here's a quick summary of the background from press reports: A prototype iPhone that Apple told police was "priceless" goes missing July 21-22 from a San Francisco watering hole; Apple traces it electronically to a home in the same city; two days later, six suits, at least one of whom allegedly identifies himself as a police officer, arrive at the homeowner's front door and ask to search the place; the resident, assuming that he's looking at a half-dozen cops - because that's what they wanted him to believe -- admits to having been at the bar recently, denies having the phone, and acquiesces to the warrantless search; two of the suits - reportedly the Apple two -- enter the home and find nothing.

Remember, this was the second iPhone prototype to go missing from a bar. When this second such story was first reported by CNET, based solely on one unnamed source, it was considered so preposterous that a number of people suspected the tale to be an Apple-orchestrated publicity stunt. That talk ended when the police finally copped to being in on the caper and the target of the search told his account, then hired a lawyer, Monroe.

Who once had plenty to say but is now no longer talking.

And, in November, Apple whisked its chief of security, John Theriault, into retirement.  

As for what Apple has to say, the company has yet to utter word one of an explanation throughout this entire episode, so I'm not expecting a meaningful response to my latest inquiry.

(Update: More than 24 hours later and no reply from Apple, not even a no comment.)

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