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Published: Tuesday, 1/13/2004

Man stands trial for movie piracy

A Bronx, N.Y., man accused in the illegal manufacture, distribution, and trafficking of pirated DVDs and videotapes went on trial yesterday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.

Lacina Batchili is charged with one count each of grand theft, forgery, receiving stolen property, trademark counterfeiting, and money laundering. He could be sentenced to 11 years in prison if convicted of all the charges.

Mr. Batchili, 40, was arrested Jan. 29 after he was stopped on the Ohio Turnpike near Toledo Express for a marked-lane violation.

Prosecutors said 144 videotapes and 95 DVDs confiscated from Mr. Batchili's minivan were pirated from newly released studio films and were to be sold on the black market. Tom Matuszak, an assistant prosecutor, said the movies had a street value of about $14,000.

Attorney Martin McManus told the jury in his opening statement that the prosecution's case against Mr. Batchili, a husband and father, was built on theories and beliefs that he was engaged in illegal activity.

Mr. McManus said his client had borrowed the minivan but did not know the contents of the boxes that held the pirated movies.

Trooper Stacey Arnold testified that Mr. Batchili behaved nervously when he was stopped in the eastbound lane of the turnpike. She said he gave conflicting information as to his relationship with the owner of the vehicle.

According to Trooper Arnold, the defendant initially said the minivan belonged to a friend but later said the vehicle was owned by a cousin.

The trooper testified that the contents of the minivan were in disarray, which she called an indication of suspicious criminal activity.

The jury also heard from Earl M. Smith, a retired FBI agent who works as an investigator for the Motion Picture Association of America. Mr. Smith said he reviewed the movies at the highway patrol headquarters in Findlay, and concluded they were illegally produced.

Judge Charles Doneghy is presiding over the trial. Testimony is expected to resume today.

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