Illinois man pleads guilty in piracy case

Sprague's admission part of deal; gov't drops 2nd charge

Russell Sprague admitted in court Monday to having made illegal DVD copies of actor Carmine Caridi’s Academy Awards screeners for the past several years.

Admission came as part of a deal with the U.S. attorney in which Sprague pled guilty to one charge of criminal copyright infringement in return for the government dropping a second charge of conspiracy to commit the same act.

According to Sprague, Caridi, who was ousted from the Academy in February, has given him his screeners for the past three to five years. Sprague then burned DVDs of the films and distributed them, although it’s not clear if he sold them or did so informally.

Films illegally copied by the Illinois resident include “Mystic River,” “Big Fish,” “Master and Commander,” but there were dozens of others in the past year alone.

He originally pled not guilty after being arrested by the FBI in late January.

Caridi has not been charged with any crimes, although he is being sued by Sony and Warner Bros. for violating the written agreement signed by all Academy members to not share his screeners.

The 70-year-old actor told authorities he thought Sprague was simply enjoying his films and didn’t know they were being duplicated.

Sprague, who is currently out on $50,000 bond, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Sentencing will occur in July, when studios will get to have their say in court. According to Assistant U.S. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Johnson, who prosecuted the Sprague case, studios whose films were pirated will estimate their value for the judge, who can sentence the defendant to pay restitution and a fine of twice the gross loss to the studios. In addition, he may be sentenced to up to three years in jail.

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