The controversial extradition case surrounding Megaupload founder and New Zealand resident Kim Dotcom has suffered a new setback – the judge presiding the trial has stepped down.
The US is attempting to extradite Dotcom from New Zealand after raiding his home and offices under charges of racketeering and money laundering, arguing that his website Megaupload.com facilitated huge amounts of internet piracy and online copyright violations.
Judge David Harvey, an internet law expert, made comments during a copyright discussion at an internet law conference where he referred to the US as the “enemy.” Considering that he was presiding over the case to determine whether or not Kim Dotcom would be extradited to the US, the judge stepped down from his role.
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"He recognizes that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent internet conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down from the case," said the district court’s chief judge Jan-Marie Doogue.
Judge Harvey made references to a tweet that mentioned American cartoonist Walt Kelly stating, “We have met the enemy and he is [the] US.”
David Harvey will be replaced by Judge Nevin Dawson who has previously presided over parts of the case including Dotcom’s bail hearing last February. Dotcoms extradition hearing is set to begin in March of 2012.
Auckland university associate professor Bill Hodge said to the New Zealand Herald that the case involved new technology arguments in an "antiquated" legal framework argued by talented lawyers. "It is uniquely high stakes."
He said it was the "case of a lifetime" for Judge Harvey. "He is recognized as one of New Zealand's experts - not just as a judge but as an expert who has gone into copyright issues."
The case against Dotcom has been wracked with setbacks. The judge initially tasked with hearing the case was officially reprimanded for their treatment of the media. The New Zealand police force and prosecution offices have faced criticism for using incorrect warrants and orders to seize cash and assets belonging to Kim Dotcom.
The FBI is also accused of removing evidence from New Zealand and returning to the US without the knowledge of New Zealand officials involved in the case. The FBI now hopes to use that evidence to extradite Dotcom to the US.
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