Supreme Court Won't Review US Government Getting To Steal All Of Kim Dotcom's Stuff

from the that's-unfortunate dept

While the “main event” in the never-ending case of the US Justice Department against Kim Dotcom continues to grind its way ever so slowly through the wheels of justice, one element has basically concluded. And this was the part that should concern you even if you think that Kim Dotcom was completely guilty of criminal copyright infringement. The issue here is that as part of the arrest of Dotcom and his colleagues, the US “seized” many of his assets. Now, when the government seizes assets, it’s a temporary thing. They have a certain period of time to hold onto it. Afterwards, they either need to give those assets back or file a separate case to attempt to “forfeit” those items (i.e., keep them forever). Here’s where things get a little bizarre. Because Dotcom was fighting extradition in New Zealand, the “deadline” for the US to continue holding the seized assets was approaching — so they filed the separate case against his stuff. Because it’s a civil asset forfeiture case, the case is literally against his stuff, and not against Kim Dotcom (and, yes, this is as weird and nonsensical as it sounds). But there was a twist: because Dotcom was still in New Zealand, the Justice Department said that he was a “fugitive” and thus couldn’t even protest the forfeiture of his stuff. Unfortunately, both the district court and the appeals court agreed.

Again, let’s be totally clear here — because sometimes people get so focused on their belief that because Megaupload enabled copyright infringement that this is somehow okay. But here we have a situation where before anyone has been found guilty of anything, the US government was given permission to take and keep all of Kim Dotcom’s stuff. This should concern you even if you think Dotcom deserves to rot in prison, because there’s a clear absence of due process here. If Dotcom is eventually found to be not guilty — that won’t have any impact on this. The US government still gets to keep his stuff (or, well, whatever it can get its hands on).

So the issue here is not whether or not Kim Dotcom is guilty of copyright infringement. It’s whether or not the US government can just take his stuff before that other process has played out. That’s a problem.

And, unfortunately, it’s a problem that the Supreme Court will not be reviewing at this time. Even as some of the Justices have expressed concerns about civil asset forfeiture, apparently they didn’t want to take on this particular case. And, maybe that’s okay, because maybe, as with many people, they wouldn’t have been able to separate out the copyright question from the civil asset forfeiture question from the fugitive disentitlement question — all of which are separate but important.

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Comments on “Supreme Court Won't Review US Government Getting To Steal All Of Kim Dotcom's Stuff”

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53 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Exercise your rights? Oh that's going to cost you

So the DoJ steals his stuff, tries to hold it over his head by requiring him to forgo his right to fight extradition if he wants to try to get it back, the courts buy the DoJ’s argument in it’s entirety, and the supreme court decides that it’s not interested in even considering the case.

Goodbye right to fight extradition.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Exercise your rights? Oh that's going to cost you

obviously the members of the Supreme Court are as bought and paid for by Hollywood and the entertainment industries as the rest of the US judicary system! i wonder which other entity is going to get screwed as badly as Mega, all on the false accusations and lies of those industries? it’s pretty obvious as well that there is no such thing in the USA any more of JUSTICE, only the word of whatever industry says it’s being harmed by poor little ‘Joe Bloggs’ down the road being taken as gospel! should be ashamed!!

MickJ says:

Naked Theft

So I get lawyers have a duty to fight the case in front of them to the best of their ability etc, but surely there’s a point where the Government attorneys have to look at themselves and wonder exactly why they are making it legal for the government to basically blackmail someone into giving up their rights and when that does not work, just steal that persons assets. I mean surely they understand the implications of the the decisions they just won. Are they that pervertedly amoral that they can just shrug and say “I’m just doing my job”.
Any person with even a shred of decency would be wondering to themselves how it came to pass that they are instrumental in perpetuating another authoritarian regime in a world that clearly understand the outright evilness of such regimes.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'They had it coming.'

Are they that pervertedly amoral that they can just shrug and say "I’m just doing my job".

I imagine it’s a mix between ‘just doing the job’, and ‘if they were really innocent they would have come over, so this is just punishment’, such that they either don’t care, or brush it aside as a ‘just’ punishment for a criminal(because the legal system isn’t meant to protect criminals after all).

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The worst part is there’s a bunch of Americans who insist that the bill of rights and those other protections don’t apply to non-citizens like Kim DotCom.

I mean seriously, if you follow their logic then it would be perfectly ok for the US to jail foreigners who criticize the US government, because foreigners don’t have the right to free speech in the US!

Daydream says:

Kim's abided by his bail conditions.

The last time the subject of Kim Dotcom being labelled a fugitive came up, I commented that he had abided by all of his bail conditions set by the New Zealand courts.
I wondered if the US labelling him a fugitive regardless meant that they didn’t recognise New Zealand’s government and its authority to enforce laws.

In any case, apparently abiding by the law is not enough to prevent you from being treated as a fugitive.

Anomalous Cowherd says:

All that needs to be said

It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished.
But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, ‘whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,’ and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.
– John Adams

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: All that needs to be said

These people have no room for this. Like all others, the people they like should be protected with liberty, the people they hate should have their liberty removed.

Only the Ultra Few actually believe in liberty, the vast majority wished to foist their rule upon the rest and spend the remainder of their time conducting ad hominem attacks on those that seek to remind everyone of the costs of freedom.

When tragedy strikes there will always be actors ready and willing to use it to move hearts against liberty in vain attempts to trade liberty in for safety. Safety never comes, but we still trade on it nevertheless.

Daydream says:

Re: All that needs to be said

There’s what I was missing! An insightful quote of an insightful quote!

For context, John Adams said that statement in 1770, when he was speaking as the defender for a group of British soldiers.
Said soldiers had been charged with murder following the Boston Massacre incident, where they had fired their muskets whilst being threatened by a mob, killing 5 people.
With John Adam’s arguments and testing of the evidence, the jury found only two soldiers guilty, of manslaughter, and that only because they were proven to have fired directly into the crowd; the other six soldiers (and their captain) were all found innocent.

This particular trial is important because it established the doctrine of reasonable doubt, and the importance of evidence; John Adams directed the jury to find guilt or innocence on the basis of the facts, testimony and evidence, rather than their own beliefs and stereotypes about the British.

Without these vital standards, the presumption of innocence and value of evidence, we would be living in a much different, far less egalitarian world, where people could use false accusations to take what they want from innocents with impunity.
We’ve seen it in the past with witch-hunts, where innocents were killed to take their property, and we’re seeing it in the present with drone strikes, where foreign civilians are murdered on unsubstantiated accusations of terrorism, and too many courts are willing to believe claims made by police against even damning evidence.
People abroad are already being pushed to terrorism to fight back against the U.S. for murdering their friends and family; what happens when Americans at home realise that the law won’t protect them?

Anonymous Coward says:

Again defending grifter who illegally got millions.

Millionaire grifter Dotcom and his “biz” have had four years of due process in which his main effort is to avoid appearing. It’s not a winning stragety.

The business and “money”, however, is within reach of DOJ. Megaupload declined to appear and contest though given notice. This process would apply to all in same circumstances.

(BTW: Testing. Think your “markdown” is borked as yesterday it did boldface text but deleted blank lines where were three dashes for horizontal rules. Of course, that feature may have been removed due to my liking to use.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Again defending grifter who illegally got millions.

Anyhoo, here’s a tidbit about Dotcom:

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130321/18271522414/leaked-mpaa-talking-points-copyright-reform-copyright-is-awesome-everyone.shtml#c374

In chain of responses started by my comment an AC asserts: “Go ahead, find me a single person who’s a millionaire because he’s got several terabytes of content stored on a hard disk drive.”

To which a witty AC replies: “Paging Kim Dotcom…”

To which John Fenderson asserts: “All indications are that he’s not actually an example of that.”

SO WHO WAS RIGHT THERE? Me and that AC mentioning Dotcom, of course.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Again defending grifter who illegally got millions.

And by within reach, your copyright enforcers had to get New Zealand to break their surveillance laws to do it. And you wonder why nobody respects copyright enforcement. Why do I have to give credence to an organization that can break the laws they can arrest me at any time for?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The actual question in the air, and it isn't how much of a smuck Kim Dotcom is or isn't

So the issue here is not whether or not Kim Dotcom is guilty of copyright infringement. It’s whether or not the US government can just take his stuff before that other process has played out. That’s a problem.
And, unfortunately, it’s a problem that the Supreme Court will not be reviewing at this time. Even as some of the Justices have expressed concerns about civil asset forfeiture, apparently they didn’t want to take on this particular case. And, maybe that’s okay, because maybe, as with many people, they wouldn’t have been able to separate out the copyright question from the civil asset forfeiture question from the fugitive disentitlement question — all of which are separate but important.

I think this is a fair point, which leaves the question what other cases that will address civil asset forfeiture appropriately are in the pipeline?

ryuugami says:

Re: Re:

Where in our Constitution does someone have the right of extradition?

I’m assuming you mean the right to fight the extradition. That wouldn’t be in the Constitution, that would be in the international treaties. Not that the US ever cared for those…

Fuck him, he isn’t a citizen of the US.

Neither am I, fuck you very much.

Sadly, your military won’t really help you once you finish pissing off the ~7.2 billion people who are not US citizens. World without friends is a scary place.

Anonymous Coward says:

how is this hard

And, maybe that’s okay, because maybe, as with many people, they wouldn’t have been able to separate out the copyright question from the civil asset forfeiture question from the fugitive disentitlement question — all of which are separate but important.

What is the problem? Anyone can see that these things are separate. I think you are giving too much leeway to the Supreme Court

Rekrul says:

If Dotcom is eventually found to be not guilty — that won’t have any impact on this. The US government still gets to keep his stuff (or, well, whatever it can get its hands on).

I’d love to hear the legal justification for keeping the assets of a person who is found to be not guilty. Isn’t the whole premise of forfeiture that the government gets to take the proceeds of criminal activity? If the person is later found not guilty, it means there was no criminal activity in the first place, so therefore the seized assets have been proven not to be the proceeds of a crime. So the whole justification for taking them in the first place goes up in smoke. What then becomes the legal argument for keeping private property that is NOT related to criminal activity?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

‘Well now, just because the person is found innocent it doesn’t mean that the property is innocent. Those cars and bank accounts look mighty guilty to me, and since they were found guilty in a court of law, with absolutely no-one interested in contesting their guilt, it’s only fair that the property face the consequences for it’s criminal actions.’

MyNameHere (profile) says:

The reason that the court won’t review it is pretty simple: the case has not reached it’s conclusion yet, so there isn’t enough to really work on.

I would also say the courts are likely to take a very dim view of a guy who isn’t willing to appear in court to face charges against him but can quickly whip up a couple of lawyers to appear to try to get his money. It actually looks pretty bad.

There also isn’t much in the way of conflict between jurisdictions to resolve either. There isn’t a series of opposing judgments in the different districts that needs addressing.

Further, and let’s make it clear: “The issue here is that as part of the arrest of Dotcom and his colleagues, the US “seized” many of his assets. Now, when the government seizes assets, it’s a temporary thing.” The problem here is that Kim has been dragging out the extradition process as long as possible (and really way longer than is merited, New Zealand has one of the most patient legal systems in the world), in no small part to try to run the clock out on the asset seizure.

My feeling is if Kim had gotten the money back, he would have hopped the first transport he could get on to move to a neutral third country that wouldn’t extradite him – with or without a passport. He pretty much knows if he ever gets into the US, his goose will be cooked.

There was little here for SCOTUS to deal with: An endless extradition, outstanding criminal charges, a defendant who appears mostly interested in the money and not in clearing his name, and a total lack of controversy at the federal court level. Why would they want to review the case?

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Dotcom’s only “opportunity” to clear his name is under unfair conditions in which the law of the land isn’t being applied, as has been pointed out in TD many times. If he does arrive in the US at any point he’d face a kangaroo court with a court-appointed lawyer unless he could come up with the cash to defend himself given that his assets have been frozen and/or confiscated.

The last thing the DOJ wants at this point is a trial since its own wrongdoing would be held up to scrutiny, which is why they are letting this case die quietly.

That Barack Obama could let this happen on his watch is a damning indictment of his presidency — as a constitutional lawyer he knew better. That Trump lets it continue is a damning indictment of his since he had the opportunity to clean up the DOJ and pt that twerp Sessions in charge instead. A very poor show by all concerned.

I’m not a mad fan of Dotcom but in essence if he doesn’t have the right to a fair trial, neither do any of us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Almost like an entertainment industry who claims they’re too devastated to adequately pay the millions of people who they allegedly employ, but can quickly whip up millions of dollars to pay increasing annual bonuses to their enforcement departments. And by enforcement departments, they mean the CEO doing public relations trying to convince the world why suing grandmothers is a good thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You wouldn't steal a car ...

No, we wouldn’t steal anyone’s car. I would gladly download copies of a car. There is a fundamental difference between theft and copying. Theft is where there is one item and the original owner is suddenly having to walk everywhere. Duplicating is where everyone can have infinite cars with the original owner still in possession and driving around in the original car.

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