Hoping to send a stern warning to homevideo pirates, a New Jersey judge has sentenced video distributor Morris Walker to nine years in state prison. The sentence follows Walker’s recent conviction on two counts of piracy.

Walker, who had been the focus of a probe by the antipiracy office of the Motion Picture Assn. of America since early 1996, was known as one of the region’s more prolific street vendors in Newark.

His portfolio included videocassettes of firstrun films typically captured on hand-held video cameras that were brought into movie theaters.

“The prosecutors and courts are to be commended for understanding the scope and magnitude of this type of crime,” Janet Fox, MPAA’s antipiracy unit’s legal director. “This nine-year sentence is a precedent that clearly indicates video piracy will no longer be tolerated by the courts.” Walker was sentenced Nov. 14.

An investigation into Walker’s activities by MPAA sleuths led to an arrest by the New Jersey State Police, who recovered more than 1,000 videotapes.

While the charge was pending, Walker continued his bootlegging activities while under surveillance by the MPAA, who provided evidence of his continued conduct of selling pirated tapes on street corners.

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