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The Courts Government Piracy United States

Supreme Court Won't Hear Kim Dotcom's Civil Forfeiture Case (arstechnica.com) 165

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Kim Dotcom's civil forfeiture case will not be heard before the Supreme Court this term, America's highest court ruled on Monday. The civil forfeiture case was brought 18 months after 2012 American criminal charges related to alleged copyright infringement against Dotcom and his now-shuttered company, Megaupload. In the forfeiture case, prosecutors specifically outlined why the New Zealand seizure of Dotcom's assets on behalf of the American government was valid. Seized items include millions of dollars in various seized bank accounts in Hong Kong and New Zealand, the Dotcom mansion, several luxury cars, four jet skis, two 108-inch TVs, three 82-inch TVs, a $10,000 watch, and a photograph by Olaf Mueller worth over $100,000.

"We are disappointed in the denial of the cert petition -- it is a bad day for due process and international treaties," Ira Rothken, Dotcom's chief global counsel, told Ars. "Kim Dotcom has never been to the United States, is presumed innocent, and is lawfully opposing extradition under the United States-New Zealand Treaty -- yet the United States by merely labeling him as a fugitive gets a judgement to take all of his assets with no due process," Rothken said. "The New Zealand and Hong Kong courts, who have authority over the assets, will now need to weigh in on this issue and we are cautiously optimistic that they will take a dim view of the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine and oppose US efforts to seize such assets."

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Supreme Court Won't Hear Kim Dotcom's Civil Forfeiture Case

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  • unconstitutional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XXongo ( 3986865 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @03:56PM (#55296411) Homepage
    Civil forfeiture without any trial violates the bill of rights. Not just Kim Dotcom, either, the government should't be able to take stuff from anybody without due process, merely by asserting that they think maybe that person had committed a crime.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/forfeiture-without-due-process/2011/12/22/gIQAckn3WP_story.html?utm_term=.2bb81d9378c5

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/its-still-seizure-without-proper-due-process-1453321983

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The USA is a rogue state.
      The fact that its citizens allow this crap is even more telling.

    • Re:unconstitutional (Score:5, Informative)

      by tatman ( 1076111 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @04:16PM (#55296575) Homepage
      This is very typical. At one time, florida law allowed police to confiscate any cash on you (if you carried more than $300) during a traffic citation on the assumption it was drug money. It was on the person to prove the money was not acquired through illegal drug activities. Oklahoma also had similar laws at one point. I do not know if they are still applied. Tax fraud arrests was very similarly executed in the 80s, even to the point a senator wrote a book about armed IRS agents ransacking in the middle of the night, freezing every bank account the person in question had etc....again on them to prove they were not in violation of tax laws before getting their $ back. Round and round we go.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        At one time, florida law allowed police to confiscate any cash on you (if you carried more than $300) during a traffic citation on the assumption it was drug money. It was on the person to prove the money was not acquired through illegal drug activities.

        Ohio has a similar law, however there was no opportunity to prove your innocence nor was your guilt even always questioned.

        They take it on the assumption it is drug money and they charge the money with the crime.
        Since you wouldn't be the defendant, the court refuses to hear anything you may have to say.

        I had a friend that happened to, whom I'm at least pretty certain isn't/wasn't a drug dealer ever.
        He just cashed his paycheck that evening after work and had both his paycheck stub and the cash-to-go place re

      • Re:unconstitutional (Score:5, Informative)

        by fafalone ( 633739 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @06:29PM (#55297459)
        That happens all the time to this day, more and more frequently in fact. It's up by huge amounts every year, and for many departments is a major funding source. Some places are even trying to equip cops with card readers so they can seize any assets you have that way during traffic stops too. It's not even limited to large amounts, they routinely seize under $100. What's more, since it's a civil action against your property and you're not accused of a crime, you're not entitled to a lawyer so have to pay for one at your own expense to fight the seizure, and can't get attorneys fees covered. It's truly disgusting. Not surprisingly, Jeff Sessions is a huge fan of it and announced that he was rolling back restrictions designed to prevent the worst abuses of it at the federal level, including one on limiting states' ability to get around their own forfeiture laws by partnering with the feds. And not only do no states require a criminal charge, much less a conviction, around half of them only use the weakest standard there is (preponderance) for challenges, for which you can't get a jury trial, and the judge always gives enormous deference to the cops. It's nothing short of a massive program of legalized theft by armed government agents.
        • ... sigh... Really does sound like we're fast on our way to becoming a failed state.

          Maybe some American oligarchs visited Cambodia and thought to themselves, "we need some of THIS kind of government back home!"

        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's nothing short of a massive program of legalized theft by armed government agents.

          It's not actually legal. Infringement of fundamental rights "under the Colour of Law" has been a crime on the books in federal law since the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era - and nobody with a functioning brain can deny that civil forfeiture infringes fundamental rights.

          But the current situation is like the story "The Emperor's New Clothes". So long as the criminals in government pretend there's nothing wrong, they get away with their crimes. Deeply entrenched corruption wins over rule of law. Who say

    • by Anonymous Coward

      >merely by asserting that they think maybe that person had committed a crime.
      But they aren't asserting that the person commited the crime. They are asserting the items were criminal or were bought with proceeds that were criminals.

      See, the item commited the crime. Not the person. The Bill of Rights is fuzzy with regards to a thing's rights.

      I agree, it's BS and I would hope some Supreme Court in the future will seal this up.

      • >merely by asserting that they think maybe that person had committed a crime.
        But they aren't asserting that the person commited the crime. They are asserting the items were criminal or were bought with proceeds that were criminals.

        See, the item commited the crime. Not the person. The Bill of Rights is fuzzy with regards to a thing's rights.

        I agree, it's BS and I would hope some Supreme Court in the future will seal this up.

        Well, there *is* a certain twisted logic.

        IoT = Internet of Things

        PoT = Prosecution of Things.

        It's simply a case of feature-creep among Things.

        Stop further empowering Things.

        Strat

        • Wait wait wait. You are missing that the law is just ahead of it's time. It's ready for the autonomous criminal AI overlords. We are not sure when we will need such laws to govern things but those 108" TVs COULD have been sentient. They had to be confiscated and watched just to be sure.

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @04:37PM (#55296729)
      I've never once heard it mentioned on a major campaign. Nobody likes it, but when it comes time to vote the 'tough on crime' voters always seem to outnumber the civil rights voters.

      Until folks start showing up at the polls and voting the Tough on Crime crowd out this is all just pissing in the wind...
    • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Monday October 02, 2017 @06:09PM (#55297345) Homepage

      I quite agree, and as horrible as civil forfeiture is that's not even the worst of it: the drone war (conducted across US administrations from US Presidents G.W. Bush, through Obama, and now Trump) kills people extrajudicially including Americans and children. Put another way: civil forfeiture typically takes people's property (including their money), the drone war typically takes people's lives. So far nobody has used the drone war as much as Pres. Obama, but there's more continuity of policy showing how (like civil forfeiture) there's an agreement across both corporate parties. The reasoning justifying the killings is almost always absent, and when pressed revealed to be horrific.

      Under Obama's administration on September 30, 2011 the US killed an American named Anwar al-Awlaki [wikipedia.org] said to be involved in al-Qaeda operations. There were no charges filed, no evidence offered, no trial held. Two weeks later in a separate drone strike his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was also killed. Again no charges filed, no evidence offered, no trial held. When reporters asked what Abdulrahman's crime was that justified killing him extrajudicially Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, replied in a way that made it clear: the US government kills whomever it wants whenever it wants on any or no evidence while he also blamed the son for the alleged sins of his father. Lots of passers-by die in each drone strike as well; completely untargetted people who happen to live or pass within the killing zone of a missile. This is how wedding and dinner parties full of people (we don't even know their names) have died.

      Robert Gibbs, Obama's former White House press secretary and a senior official in the president's 2012 reelection campaign, was also asked about the strike that killed Abdulrahman. "It's an American citizen that is being targeted without due process of law, without trial. And, he's underage. He's a minor," reporter Sierra Adamson told Gibbs, during a press gaggle after a presidential debate where Gibbs was serving as a surrogate for Obama. Gibbs shot back: "I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well-being of their children. I don't think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business."

      Obama famously made a joke of drone war at one of his press dinners where he joked about killing a boy band his daughters liked. What made that 'joke' so unfunny is precisely that when he said it he was one of the few people who could have ordered such a strike and gotten away with killing them too. I think it important in this age of replaying Pres. Trump gaffes to indicate how little he cares about the disaffected people to show how little people knew of what was going on in these drone strikes, who was being killed, and why.

      Continuing the policy of unlimited extrajudicial killing Obama once feinted to be concerned about [theintercept.com]: On January 29, 2017, the Trump administration killed Anwar Al-Awlaki's 8-year-old daughter, Nawar Al-Awlaki in a drone-led Navy SEAL raid [theintercept.com].

      As other countries get killer drones, what future has the US committed its citizens to? One can only hope that other countries continue to show a restraint that the US has not shown with nuclear weapons. There's still far too much danger with nuclear weapons too, but the above are some of the reasons the world fears the US most. You won't hear many people criticizing Trump mention civil forfeiture or drone strikes because bringing this up at all runs the risk of not being uniquely anti-Trump, of pointing out the continuity of American policy that in some way hurts us all (none so much as those assassinated, of course).

    • Would you like to inform the sitting Supreme Court Justices that their ruling is illegal and unconstitutional? From what I know, they are the ones to set precedent, not legal professors and opinion writers in The Washington Post. SCOTUS can break precedent if they wish. There is no law requiring them to do so. ...

      Kim Dotcom is done. The goose is cooked. No more chances to recover any assets from US authorities. I somehow doubt that he will gain any assets from China or New Zealand courts, either.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Civil forfeiture without any trial violates the bill of rights. Not just Kim Dotcom, either, the government should't be able to take stuff from anybody without due process, merely by asserting that they think maybe that person had committed a crime.

      Well, the Kim Dotcom case is at least closer to the original use of civil forfeiture which was to seize pirate ships, smugglers and privateers where the owner is out of jurisdiction and can't be brought to trial. In that respect, he might be one of the few people who ought to be victim of civil forfeiture, the crazy thing is when it is intentionally used as a substitute for a criminal trial. Once you have a defendant that says that money is mine, I've done nothing wrong and if you want to try charging me wi

    • Does the Bill of Rights protect non-US citizens? Are those rights granted to businesses?
  • That's what this country does. Want respect for the law? Then respect it yourself. Not happening.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

      You make it sound like the law got mad for being disrespected.

      This is why I like science. It doesn't care if you respect it or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The U.S. only applies its legal doctrine (most of the time) to its own country. For the rest of the world, they're just fucking bullies, period. They routinely violate all their international treaties. The U.S.'s signature isn't worth the paper it's written on.

    The best thing the world could do right now is to let Trump build his fucking wall, build another one up north, and let americans rot in their own filth for eternity. All countries should sever all diplomatic and commercial relations with them. Isn't

  • Yes, I think he's guilty. However, we still have due process and I think this sets and perpetuates a horrible precedent.
    • "We" as in naturally born or legalized USA citizens have Due Process rights.
      Kim DotCom nor anyone not of the ""naturally born or legalized USA citizens"" part does not.

    • Re:Bad news (Score:4, Informative)

      by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Monday October 02, 2017 @05:41PM (#55297137)
      And according to the 4th Circuit court, he'll get his due process as soon as he makes an appearance before a US court. Until then, he considered a fugitive.
      • Re:Bad news (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shentino ( 1139071 ) <shentino@gmail.com> on Monday October 02, 2017 @08:20PM (#55298163)

        Wrong.

        The court said that he forfeited his due process rights by fleeing prosecution, so appearing before a US court (even voluntarily and without being arrested) won't give him back.

        The district court entered a default judgement and approved the forfeiture, because the justice dept argued successfully that as a fugitive who was willfully evading US jurisdiciton he voluntarily abandoned any right to contest the forfeiture. Even though I agree with dotcom that he was not a fugitive in the first place, since he was legally fighting extradition instead of fleeing even from NZ authorities.

        The appellate court basically took the side of the prosecution, possibly figuring that SCOTUS could fix it if they screwed up.

        SCOTUS said "we got bigger fish to fry, piss off" and denied cert. As it is they're picky about cases even if they know the appelate court screwed up. For example, the "rule of 4" they use to filter out cases includes, among other things, circuit splits.

        There is no further due process for kim with regard to the forfeitures. The only due process remaining is his criminal case for copyright infringement. The civil stuff is over and the US gets to keep everything.

        As it is I think that the US legal system may well have been deliberately designed to be flaky enough to keep the proverbial buck passing until someone fumbles.

      • Due process should come before punishment, not after. Just more collateral damage from the War on Drugs; civil asset forfeiture of course being sold to us a tool to confiscate the profits of kingpins. Nobody questioned the lack of need for a conviction at the time, because don't worry, it's just for those rich cartel leaders. Now of course, if you think *this* is terrible, dig a little deeper. They'll make seizures of under $100, will fight tooth and nail against people even after it becomes obvious the mon
  • It's really the only thing that makes the US government listen anymore.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Maybe he should hook up with Bruce Simpson (another Kiwi who got busted by the NZ government at the behest of the USA because he was making a "DIY Cruise Missile" using off-the-shelf parts) and send a few in the direction of the head offices of the film studios who are really behind all this...

    • In all seriousness, I suspect the ever-growing criminality of the American regime is one of many reasons the Norks will never willingly give up their nuclear deterrent.

  • I like how so many of the comments are complaining that he didn't get any due process rights. On a story about his lawyers submitting an appeal to a court that then ruled on it.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The surpreme court didn't rule on it. Whoever modded you up is a straight idiot.

      • by nomadic ( 141991 )

        That's just wrong. Denying a cert petition is a ruling. The decision to do so is entered and published as Supreme Court order.
         

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The court did not rule on the case, they explicitly chose not to even hear the case. With civil forfeiture is involved, the outcome is the same as saying "You are guilty and have no right to defend yourself. We will be keeping your stuff."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You are mixing levels. He still was unable to go to court to prevent damages. His day in court was about whether he would be able to go to court at all. The government gave him a process without the rights guaranteed him. That is a violation of due process.

  • I know, it is absurd but the charges are brought against the assets and not the suspect....Insane mental gymnastics needed for this. How the supreme has allowed these laws to stand is beyond me. They should be ashamed.
  • As a US citizen, I'm not sure if I have ever wanted a foreign power to give the finger to our government quite so hard. Civil Forfeiture goes against everything the Founders stood for. IMHO, our first revolution started over matters far less concerning. The only reason we haven't burned it all down yet is because it isn't hurting enough people.

    • The American War of Independence was fought over Corporate Taxes. I expect when things get bad (National Bankruptcy) that another civil war will happen to "fix" the problems (the corporations will have to pay the people off for support, again).
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I agree with all of Kim's points. This is political and has been bought and paid for by the media production and software companies. The United States strong-armed New Zealand. I think all other Countries need to take a look at what my country is doing and revoke extradition treaties and instead do things on a case by case basis.

    He did nothing on American soil. Case closed. If they want to go after him for copyright then that should be through New Zealand law. Our supreme court can't contradict the lower c

  • What if China labelled Zuckerburg as a fugitive from Chinese justice because facebook does business there, and it violates their communist ideals. Should the USA hand him over? Let China seize his money and foreign assets? When I think of a German Finnish national living in New Zealand and doing business in Hong Kong. The first place I think he should be extradited to is... America?! WTF?
    • It would be kinda cool if a Communist country started asserting universal jurisdiction for its laws, and had the economic & military power to become it up. Not that PRC at all lives up to Communist ideals.. but it's still an entertaining thought.

  • They didn't take the mansion. He was renting it.
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  • I think civil forfeiture is a pestilence that should be completely stamped out. Fortunately this can be done by simple legislation. What we cannot do is rely on the Constitution to save us from this plague.

    In interpreting the phrase "due process of law", the Supreme Court looks at Anglo-American law as it existed at the time the Constitution was written. The British Navigation Acts had provided for civil forfeiture in smuggling cases, and the early US Congress wrote it into US customs laws. Therefore

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