Suspect in Movie Piracy Is Fugitive

Times Staff Writer

Johnny Ray Gasca, the first person facing federal prosecution for allegedly “camcording” unreleased movies, has fled custody less than a week before his trial was to begin, officials said.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson issued a warrant for the arrest of Gasca, who is charged with conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, witness intimidation, economic extortion and using a false name, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

Gasca was in the custody of his lawyer, Alan Rubin, at the Brentwood Longs drugstore looking for flu medicine when he disappeared Wednesday morning, Rubin told the judge.

“He turned an aisle and bolted,” the attorney said.


Rubin, who at Friday’s hearing recused himself from the case, told Pregerson he was “distraught and angry.”

Gasca’s trial is set to begin Tuesday, but if he is not found by then, the trial will be postponed.

U.S. Atty. Chris Johnson said more charges will be filed against Gasca, including escape from custody and failure to appear for his hearing Friday.

Gasca allegedly sneaked a camcorder into private screenings over the last year and tried to record movies, including “The Core,” “8 Mile” and “Anger Management,” according to an affidavit.

Ken Jacobsen, who heads the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s anti-piracy unit, said the prosecution of Gasca sends a message that there will be consequences for illegal video-recording.