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Prince of Piracy Convicted in Los Angeles
July 1, 2005
Thomas Mennecke
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California now has two notable distinction related to piracy. It was the first state in the nation to criminalize the filming of movies in a theater. In addition, it is the first state to convict a movie pirate on federal charges. Johnny Ray Gasca, AKA "The Prince of Piracy" was convicted of addition charges in addition to copyright violation. It appears Mr. Gasca was busy in more avenues than just piracy.

Mr. Gasca has an extensive rap sheet that dates back to 1986. His convictions include grand larceny, possession of stolen property, and attempted murder. Although starting in 1992 he served several years in prison for attempted murder, things appeared quiet during the turn of the century. However, Mr. Gasca was indeed busy recording theatrical movies, and according to the DOJ, making $4,500 a week for their sale. From the April 2003 FBI press release:

"In September 2002, Gasca was detected secretly recording the film "The Core," which had not been commercially released to the public. Gasca was then placed under arrest by Officers of the Burbank Police Department and was subsequently charged with burglary. In January 2003, Gasca and two accomplices were seen videotaping a screening of the film "Anger Management" at a movie theater in Thousand Oaks. As theater employees approached the three individuals, Gasca fled the theater. The two accomplices were taken into custody by Deputies of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department."

"Gasca has also been seen at other screenings in Hollywood and Los Angeles, and on one occasion displayed identification to security personnel that identified him as an employee of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)."

Over the next few months, the FBI continued to build their case, which resulted in Mr. Gasca's residence being raided on March 13, 2003. The raid resulted in the seizure of "video duplication equipment, a false Social Security card and two diaries in which Gasca wrote that he made as much as $4,500 per week selling pirated pre-release screenings of movies such as "Anger Management," "The Core" and "Cradle 2 the Grave."

When his residence was raided on the 13th of March, Mr. Gasca retaliated by threatening MPAA investigators. Specifically, he demanded the MPAA assist him retrieve his video reproduction equipment, "or he would retaliate by causing the release of up to 30 un-released motion pictures."

When charges were brought against Mr. Gasca on April 22, 2003, the judge hearing the matter immediately ordered him detained "without bond following revelations that Gasca had 89 prior arrests and a conviction on attempted murder charges."

Mr. Gasca was indicted on federal criminal charges on May 7, 2003. A federal grand jury in Los Angeles charged Mr. Gasca of infringement of a copyright, interstate communication of a threat, possession of a false identification document of the United States and witness retaliation. The arraignment (formal accusation) was held May 12, 2003.

To prepare for his defense, Mr. Gasca was released with the intention of court-ordered supervision. He was released so he could help his legal counsel prepare for trial, which was scheduled to begin January 13, 2004.

Mr. Gasca never showed up.

Mr. Gasca fled from justice January 7, 2004. He remained a fugitive from justice for over a year until his capture in April of 2005. By all accounts he continued his movie piracy escapade as his hotel room in Kissimmee, Florida, was filled with DVD recording and copying equipment.

Finally, on June 30th, a jury convicted Mr. Gasca on all counts, with the additional charge of escape from justice. The MPAA lauded the conviction.

“The jury spoke loudly and clearly to the so-called ‘prince of piracy,’ Johnny Ray Gasca,” said Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA) President and CEO Dan Glickman. “Camcording movies in theaters is illegal and has serious consequences, and those who engage in such acts will be held liable.”

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Legal/Courtroom :: Court Rulings/Decisions
Unauthorized Distribution :: Physical Piracy

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