Video pirate fined $1,000 in plea agreement


A former Ellicott City man was fined $1,000 yesterday after entering a plea agreement in Howard District Court on charges that he sold pirated copies of videotapes.

In the agreement, Huey Grant, 29, pleaded not guilty but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him on one count of selling unauthorized copies of videotapes.

Mr. Grant, now of Arlington, Va., was initially charged with nine piracy counts, but the prosecution dropped eight of the counts as part of the plea agreement.

Had he been convicted of all nine counts, Mr. Grant would have faced a maximum sentence of nine years in jail and $22,500 in fines.

"Obviously, this is a serious problem in our society," District Judge James Vaughan said in yesterday's proceedings.

"I'm sorry for what I did," said Mr. Grant, a store worker at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County. "I'll never let that happen again."

The defendant lived in the 4700 block of Dorsey Hall Drive in Ellicott City at the time of his arrest in September, records state.

Mr. Grant was arrested following an investigation by county police and the Motion Picture Association of America after arranging to sell 70 unauthorized videotapes of popular movies to detectives, police said.

A co-defendant, Donna Livingstone, 41, of the 5300 block of Brookway, Columbia, is scheduled for trial on March 17. She is charged with one count of selling unauthorized copies of videotapes.

Assistant State's Attorney William Tucker said investigators met Mr. Grant in the parking lot of a McDonald's Restaurant in Jessup to buy 100 videotapes for $1,000 on Sept. 26.

At the meeting, Mr. Grant presented the investigators with 70 videotapes with such titles as "White Men Can't Jump," "Star Trek VI," "Final Analysis" and "One False Move," the prosecutor said.

None of the videos carried the names of the performers or the company that produced the tapes, Mr. Tucker said.

Mr. Grant told the investigators that he got the tapes in New York but only had enough money to pick up 70 tapes instead of the expected 100, Mr. Tucker said.

The investigators bought 19 videotapes for $270 from Ms. Livingstone on Sept. 9, according to a police report filed in District Court.

Deborah Spector, an assistant public defender for Mr. Grant, asked Judge Vaughan to give her client probation before judgment, which would prevent a conviction from appearing on Mr. Grant's record if he completes the terms of the probation.

But Judge Vaughan refused, saying the piracy charge is too serious a crime.

"This was too slick of an operation to say, 'Oh, well, we'll just let it go,' " the judge said. "It's too big of a concern. It's too big of a problem."

Judge Vaughan said he would consider striking Mr. Grant's conviction and giving him probation before judgment if he pays the $1,000 fine within 90 days.

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