Yet Another (Yes Another) Error In Megaupload Case: Search Warrants Ruled Illegal
from the keystone-kops dept
Early on, we pointed out that the legal theories behind the shutting down of Megaupload and the arrest of its founders were highly questionable. And since then, we’ve seen that it wasn’t just the legal theories that were problematic, but nearly everything about the case, including a bunch of procedural issues. There’s been lost evidence and plans to destroy evidence. There have been procedural errors that knocked out a restraining order for being improperly filed, as well as the failure to properly serve the company, which may lead the case against the company (but not the individuals) to be dropped entirely. On top of that, the US has been acting as this is all pretty straightforward, but have already been surprised to discover that the New Zealand government won’t simply rubberstamp the extradition.
The latest update may create an even bigger headache for the US in its crusade against Kim Dotcom and Megaupload. High Court judge Helen Winkelmann has ruled that the search warrants used to seize Kim Dotcom’s property… were illegal. Yeah, that’s going to present a problem for the US. She also ruled that the FBI broke the law in taking data from Dotcom’s computers out of the country. But the illegal warrants are the big deal here:
She said the search warrants were invalid because they were general warrants which lacked specificity about the offence and the scope of the items to be searched for.
Without a valid warrant, police were trespassing and exceeded what they were lawfully authorised to do.
Justice Winkelmann said no one had addressed whether police conduct also amounted to unreasonable search and seizure, but her preliminary view was that it did.
In other words, it’s not only entirely possible that the government won’t even be able to use anything from what they seized in a case, but they may, themselves, be in trouble for breaking the law and violating Dotcom’s privacy rights.
The specific problem? The warrant did not actually state what US laws were supposedly broken — which is kind of important, especially since this was about a case in the US and a person in New Zealand. If it’s not made clear that the warrant is under US laws, then it “would no doubt cause confusion to the subjects of the searches…they would likely read the warrants as authorising a search for evidence of offences as defined by New Zealand law.”
So not only do we have a weak case, the whole process in the case has been a complete joke and may mean that the US is unable to use much of the evidence it collected, can’t extradite Dotcom and… has little actual basis to move forward with a lawsuit. Honestly, I’m somewhat amazed at the number of mistakes by the feds in such a case. It increasingly feels like they did this because they felt the need to “do something” right after the effort to pass SOPA and PIPA stalled out — and in their rush to make Hollywood like them again, the feds didn’t bother to actually pay much attention to the details. Sometimes it’s “creative” to color outside the lines. At other times, it’s called cooking up a case on trumped up charges for political reasons.