A man convicted of sneaking camcorders into movie screenings and selling the pirated tapes in videostores was sentenced to seven years in federal prison Friday.

“It is hoped the sentence will deter further unlawful conduct and protect the public,” said U.S. District Judge Dean D. Pregerson.

Johnny Ray Gasca was convicted in June 2005 of three counts of copyright infringement as well as using a fake Social Security number and of an escape charge for fleeing his attorney’s custody while awaiting trial.

Gasca gained notoriety as the first person to be charged in a federal crackdown on video piracy. He represented himself during a weeklong trial, saying he didn’t intend to profit from his actions. He said evidence was embellished to make him appear to be a “prince of piracy.”

Federal prosecutors showed the jury Gasca’s diary, in which he wrote that he earned up to $4,000 a week by attending the screenings. Prosecutors alleged he sold the films through small videostores or on the street.

During the sentencing hearing, Gasca accused prosecutors of lying during his trial. Gesturing with his hands and often pointing to prosecutors and the judge, Gasca called the courtroom a “den of snakes” and asked for a new trial, a motion the judge denied.

Gasca was arrested by Burbank police and first charged with misdemeanor burglary after sneaking a camcorder into a screening of “The Core” in September 2002.

The next month, security officers at a Los Angeles theater found him with a camcorder at an MTV screening of the Eminem pic “8 Mile.”

And in January 2003, a theater camera meant to record audience reaction at an “Anger Management” screening caught Gasca in the front row with his camcorder trained on the screen.

The judge also ordered three years of supervision after Gasca is released and ordered him to attend anger-management classes as a condition of release.