Kim Dotcom Responds to Extradition Hearing Delay: U.S. 'Doesn't Have a Case' (Exclusive)
A New Zealand court has delayed the extradition hearing for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom until March because of the manner in which the search of Dotcom's countryside residence and the seizure of his assets were handled by authorities. The decision has sparked a fiery response from Dotcom, who discussed it in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Monday night.
Dotcom railed against the handling of the United States' legal case against him and a New Zealand court's decision to delay his scheduled Aug. 6 extradition hearing to a tentative date of March 25, 2013, saying that the U.S. government -- with help from authorities in New Zealand -- is using "dirty delay tactics instead of evidence."
Dotcom said he wanted the hearing to go on as planned Aug. 6 so that his legal team would have the opportunity to present his case in an expeditious manner. "The actions by the [United States Department of Justice] clearly demonstrate that they don't have a case and that this ... was about killing Megaupload and creating a chilling effect to freeze the whole file-hosting sector. They achieved that," Dotcom said in the interview, which was conducted via Skype. "I don't think they are prepared for the wave that's coming to them now."
The Department of Justice declined to address Dotcom's comments, but a spokesman told THR, "We will leave our comments to the court filing."
In late June, a New Zealand high court judge declared the Jan. 20 raid on Dotcom and others to have been "illegal." In a 56-page decision, Judge Helen Winkelmann said that when local law enforcement cooperated with the U.S. government and seized much of Dotcom's property, including massive amounts of data from his computers, the warrant was insufficiently detailed. Ongoing legal arguments over the legality of the evidence led to the delay of the extradition hearing, with both prosecutors and Dotcom's attorneys agreeing to the postponement, which was revealed in legal documents released on Monday.
The indicted founder of Megaupload has been accused by the U.S. of facilitating and participating in large-scale copyright infringement through his Megaupload cyber locker service, causing more than $500 million in losses to copyright holders -- including all six major Hollywood studios and the big record labels. The service was shut down in January when authorities in New Zealand raided Dotcom's $24 million compound in Coatesville, a small town not far from Auckland.
"My home was raided by 72 heavily armed police arriving in helicopters. This was an Osama bin Laden-style operation on an alleged copyright infringer. I guess it's pure luck that my family wasn't terminated by a Predator drone," said Dotcom, referencing the unmanned aerial vehicle used by the U.S. Air Force.
Dotcom and three other accused Megaupload executives have argued that the site, which at one time boasted 180 million users, was a legitimate file-sharing service in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and that they were not part of a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.
"The DOJ knows that [it doesn't] have a case," said Dotcom, who spent about a month in an Auckland jail following the raid before being released on bail in February. "If they are forced to provide discovery, then there will be no extradition. That's why they don't want to provide discovery. If they had a case, they would not need to hide what they have."
If convicted, Dotcom, a German native who was born Kim Schmitz but legally changed his surname around the time he founded Megaupload in 2005, could serve as much as 20 years in prison.
Until his indictment, Dotcom, 38, was best known as an online celebrity, famous for his over-the-top lifestyle of $400,000 supercars, supermodel hot-tub parties and the slick YouTube video he made with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian (in it, he raps about Megaupload: "It's a hit! It's a hit!").
Dotcom said in the interview that because his assets have been seized, he has been left without "funds to pay my lawyers." U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady, who is overseeing the case against Dotcom, ruled after a June 29 hearing that while Dotcom's legal team could argue for a motion to dismiss the allegations against the company, the Megaupload founder's assets would not be unfrozen to pay attorney costs.
"The new rule is guilty until proven innocent," Dotcom said. "My rights to due process and a fair defense are subverted."
The Megaupload founder also was critical of the Motion Picture Association of America and its CEO, Chris Dodd, saying: "This whole case is a perversion of justice ... This is what happens when former Sen. Chris Dodd calls in favors from his buddies in the White House."
Dotcom has taken to Twitter and Instagram in recent weeks to make the case for his innocence and to poke fun at both himself and his legal adversaries. Dotcom, who joined Twitter in June, has more than 87,000 followers on the social media service and regularly publicizes messages of support and goodwill he receives from fans, in addition to sharing photographs of his wife and young children.
"The Internet is uniting behind me," Dotcom said. "Everyone can see what's going on. Hollywood is in control of politics and has imported their action-filled movie scripts into the real world."
The MPAA could not be immediately reached for comment.