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A painful lesson: Don't pick up abandoned iPhone

Don't mess with another woman's cell phone.

That's what Novato resident Moriah Stafford learned when she found an iPhone in a shopping cart at a Marin County Kohl's store on Sept. 20.

Stafford took the phone to her son's Petaluma home, thinking he could help her try to contact the owner. Next thing she knew, Sonoma County sheriff's deputies kicked in the door, grabbed the phone and arrested her and her son.

Turns out the super-slick iPhone 4 with its built-in GPS device allowed the owner, Kathleen Wata, to track it to within three feet.

Within hours, Wata's husband led deputies to the I Street home. Deputies knocked. But when no one answered they forced their way in.

Stafford and her son, Stephen Sommers, were sitting on the living room couch, said Sommers' lawyer, Jeff Mitchell.

"I was shocked," said Stafford, a retired cosmetics saleswoman with no criminal record. "I'm putting my hands in the air thinking, &‘Is this the way I'm going to die, Lord?'"

Stafford was charged with possession of stolen property and stealing a phone the owner said was worth $1,000 with accessories and apps. She faced state prison time if convicted.

Her 44-year-old son was arrested on the same charges plus drug possession and a warrant.

Thursday it all came to an end when prosecutors dropped all the charges against Stafford because of insufficient evidence.


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