Where were the crowds? "Big day today," Kim Dotcom advised the 468,000 followers on his Twitter account on Monday morning. "Let's go!" Dotcom's legal team, finally, began their defence of their excitable client in week six of his extradition hearing.
Uncle Sam and the FBI - aptly, the courtroom is in Federal St - have stuck it to Dotcom and the three men co-accused of copyright infringement, racketeering, money laundering and fraud. Now it was the turn of the defence to stick it to Uncle Sam and the FBI.
"I wish you could all be at my court hearing," Dotcom tweeted, wistfully. "It's going to be good." But the public gallery was empty, and the press bench was down to three.
Dotcom looked rather glum. His defence lawyer Ron Mansfield looked even worse. The poor devil was struck down with a killer head cold. His great moment had arrived; here, at last, was his chance to denounce the US in loud, ringing tones, but he felt like he had sheep running around inside of his head.
He played the sympathy card with Judge Nevin Dawson. But the judge wasn't in the mood for cards. "Your Honour will be aware I'm not recognised for being an orator," Mansfield said. "I struggle with words beyond one syllable."
Dawson stared at him. His implacable face sent a message spelled out in words which required only one syllable: get on with it. He got on with it. Mansfield's submission - volume one, 300 pages - was wide-ranging and powerful. In essence, he said the US case was woeful, pathetic, lame. Worse, it was political. He said it was driven by Hollywood, which demanded that the White House crack down on Dotcom's Megaupload file-sharing empire.
"This is not a conspiracy theory. Hollywood threatened the Democrats and Republicans that they would lose their massive financial support."
Talk of Hollywood gave proceedings a kind of glamour. Mansfield amped it up much, much further when he dared to project a Megaupload promotional video on to a big screen in court. It starred Kanye West and other significant artists such as Kim Kardashian. They chanted: "We love Megaupload!" Judge Dawson, alas, was not feeling the love. He demanded Mansfield put a stop to it.
Monday was Kanye; Tuesday was Elvis. Mansfield continued with one of the key tenets of his argument - that the prosecution have failed to meet the extradition standard of criminal activity. Dotcom's activities were a civil matter, he argued. Copyright infringement cannot be prosecuted under the Crimes Act. Mansfield said, "The highest court of the United States, the Supreme Court in Dowling, has unequivocally held that allegations of copyright infringement can be prosecuted only under copyright-specific legislation."
The feds busted Paul Dowling in 1982 for making and distributing Elvis bootleg albums. The charges included mail fraud. His appeal was upheld by the Supreme Court, which ruled the actual bootleg records, as objects, qualified as issues of copyright infringement, but not as matters of criminal fraud.
"Interference with copyright does not easily equate with theft, conversion, or fraud."
The same principle, said Mansfield, applied to the electronic files stored by Megaupload. "There is no case to answer under US law ... It's fatal to the extradition attempt ... It's the end of the story, really."
Monday, Kanye; Tuesday, The King; but Wednesday's celebrity was low-rent, shabby.
Mansfield invoked the case of Jonathan Dixon, the Queenstown bouncer who got busted in 2011 for trying to flog intimate CCTV footage of England rugby player Mike Tindall to the UK tabloids. The point of law was whether the digital files which Dixon downloaded to his USB stick could be defined as an "object", or "property", which could then be "possessed".
The Supreme Court in New Zealand ruled that Dixon's file was, in fact, "property". It was tangible; it existed. But only sort of. From Mansfield's submission: "Even if a digital file can ... constitute property, it cannot constitute property which is capable of being possessed."
Possession is ninth-tenths of breaking the law, after all, and as Mansfield argued, "They [Dotcom and the co-accused] did not possess the files which their users uploaded ... No offence can be made out."
Curiously, after a lengthy submission regarding Dixon's precedent, Mansfield was suddenly interrupted by the judge.
"Are you," said Dawson, in his deep, beautiful voice, "aware of the Supreme Court case of Dixon?"
Mansfield blinked. The sheep in his head bleated. "Ye-es," he answered. "I've dealt with that today, in fact, Your Honour. Quite rigorously, sir."
"Thank you," said Dawson, as though nothing had happened.
Kanye, Elvis, Dixon ... It couldn't possibly last. The hearing ran out of fame, and the week ended with Judge Dawson fulminating with rage as prosecutor Christine Gordon, QC, stammered and stumbled during her interminable objections to Mansfield's intention to call witnesses.
"What is the point of this?" said Dawson.
Gordon referred to a court document, and got her paragraphs in a tangle.
Dawson: "I just don't see where this is going!" Gordon trembled, and dropped the document.
Dawson: "I don't understand!" Gordon's rather shambolic performance finally ended, and Dawson allowed the witnesses.
Next week: Volume two of Mansfield's submissions. Let's go.