1 July – LAWFUEL – The Law News Network – A former Hollywood resident has been convicted of eight federal criminal charges, including three counts of copyright infringement, related to his use of a video camcorder to covertly film the motion pictures “The Core,” “8 Mile” and “Anger Management” at private screenings for the purpose of making money.
Johnny Ray Gasca, 35, fled from the custody of his lawyer on the eve of his last scheduled trial and remained a fugitive for 16 months until the U.S. Marshals Service apprehended him in Kissimmee, Florida. Gasca was returned to Los Angeles just last month to face the charges.
In addition to the misdemeanor copyright infringement charges, Gasca was found guilty of felony counts of false use of a social security number, making extortionate threats, witness retaliation and escape. The jury returned the guilty verdicts yesterday afternoon after a six-day trial.
Gasca had been arrested by state authorities in September 2002 after being ejected from a private screening of “The Core” while carrying a black leather bag containing expensive recording equipment. The jury heard evidence that at the time Gasca was in possession of remote zoom and monitor devices, an infrared sound receiver and a black sweatshirt with a special hole designed to surround the lens of his camcorder.
A federal search warrant executed at Gasca’s Hollywood residence in March 2003 resulted in the seizure of video duplication equipment, a false Social Security card and two diaries in which Gasca detailed making as much as $4,500 per week selling pirated pre-release versions of movies. Gasca was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2003 and taken into federal custody.
At trial, the government presented evidence that Gasca used someone else’s Social Security Number to re-establish residential telephone service after it had been disconnected for nonpayment.
The jury also heard evidence that Gasca threatened a witness in the case, telling her that she could be shot because she had provided information to the FBI.
Other evidence presented at trial showed that Gasca communicated threats to investigators with the Motion Picture Association of America. On the day federal agents executed the search warrant at his residence and seized his equipment, Gasca demanded that the MPAA help obtain the return of his gear or else he would, “with one phone call,” flood the public with up to 20 pre-released films and “laugh all the way to jail” doing it.
Gasca’s former lawyer testified during the trial about the circumstances surrounding his client’s escape on the eve of trial last year.
After rendering the guilty verdicts yesterday, the jury today heard additional evidence and argument on whether the seized equipment and other materials were subject to forfeiture by the government. The jury ruled late this morning that the government could take or destroy 25 items, including digital video camcorders, computers and various infringing copies of copyrighted works.
Gasca faces a maximum possible sentence of 33 years in federal prison when he is sentenced on September 6 by United States District Judge Dean D. Pregerson, who presided over the trial.
The case is the result of an investigation by the Cyber Crimes Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Los Angeles.