The Pandoras box for victims, if you are under subpoena you should talk to the district attorney and see if they will let you stay away, otherwise you have to go.
My name is Stephen R. Cohen and have practiced since 1974. I practice in Los Angeles and Orange County, CA. These answers do not create an attorney client relationship. My answers may offend I believe in telling the truth, I use common sense as well as the law. Other state's laws may differ.. There are a lot of really good attorneys on this site, I will do limited appearances which are preparation of court documents it is , less expensive. However generally I believe an attorney is better than none.
If the private criminal complaint issued, then it is in the hands of the prosecutor. It is up to the prosecutor whether to drop the matter or go forward. If you think you want to drop (whether a good decision or not, I cannot say at this point), then you can communicate this to the prosecutor or the VW advocate. On the other hand, the prosecutor and VW advocate should be very interested in your concerns, as thy normally are with victims. You generally do not have to be in court except if you go to trial, so that the case can continue without you (again, as long as a complaint has issued). The defendant has the inconvenience of coming back to court over and over again until the matter is resolved, not you. Last, the defendant will have to pay you restitution on the lost phone if he/she is convicted or pleads guilty or even if he/she takes a CWOF. So you will get reimbursed for the phone while not having to keep coming back to court.
Once a criminal charge has issued it is up to the District Attorney's Office on how to proceed. It sounds like you received a letter to come to the pretrial hearing. If that s the case you are not required to be there, you are only required to show-up if t is an actual summons. You should call the District Attorney's Office, the contact information will be on the letter that you received, and you should explain your situation to them. However, if you do actually receive a summons your only real choice is to obey it and go.
This is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
The most important part of your statement, which I feel is important to address is that you now "fervently believe that private criminal complaints are not a sensible tool for recovering a stolen iphone." I could not agree more: the criminal justice system is not designed nor intended for personal use for monetary recovery. It is intended to punish a person who has committed a crime, and restitution is a by-product of that punishment. A crime is prosecuted by the state for society, not for a particular person, even if a person is the victim.
Providing users with information is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. However, if in reading my response, you are interested in retaining me to represent you, please do not hesitate to contact me.