I thought I had it rough by losing a couple of hours of time to Disney’s “Mighty Joe Young”. For one young man, that film and others will cost him at least sixty days. Film Threat has been quiet about all the issues brought up by last summer’s series of articles concerning shady behavior by Harry Knowles and his cohorts at Ain’t-It-Cool-News.com. This update isn’t to dredge up more discussion, so much as to reveal how certain events have played out.
Probably the most questionable issue previously discussed revolved around the video piracy of 23-year-old Michæl Gerhard, a.k.a. AICN writer Joe Hallenbeck. To read about that, check out the original installment #3. Arrested in April 1999, neither he nor co-defendant James Cofer had actually been charged at that time. Cofer, 25, was the employee in charge of the film vault at post-production facility New Wave Entertainment in Burbank. He was responsible for providing videotapes of unreleased Disney tapes to Gerhard.
Within a few weeks after the posting of the final installment of the AICN series, Gerhard and Cofer were finally charged. On September 12, Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau sentenced Gerhard to 120 days in jail or 60 days on a road crew in addition to a fine of $10,900. Cofer was scheduled for a court appearance on October 10. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of receiving stolen property, misappropriating a trade secret and paying a bribe for access to a trade secret. He faces a maximum of three years in prison. Deputy L.A. City Attorney P. Greg Parham stated, “We will continue to prosecute the cases and hopefully by those prosecutions, we can send a message out there that this kind of activity does have its consequences.
While Gerhard’s fate has come to pass, what does the resolution of this mess mean to AICN’s leader, Harry Knowles? Much of that depends on Harry’s level of knowledge prior to the arrests, which has been difficult to determine. On at least three different occasions, Knowles has provided three conflicting sets of answers, including to Film Threat in his interview contained in article #2. My sources indicate that at the very least, Knowles directed Cofer, then just one of Harry’s spies, to send tapes to Gerhard. Gerhard collected the pirated tapes from most of the other Los Angeles area spies, and then would send everything at once to Harry.
Now keep in mind that the individual who bears the brunt of the blame for this situation is Michæl Gerhard. I’ve got my own opinions about him, but you can form your own by listening to the man in his own words: Here’s the link to an interview with Michæl Gerhard (AKA Joe Hallenbeck).James Cofer did something wrong and colossally stupid, but there’s still no evidence that I’ve seen that he even knew Gerhard had sent tapes to anyone other than Harry.
While Harry hasn’t apparently had to face any of the punishment heaped upon those two, the one thing he can’t deny is that, no matter what, he profited from the arrangement (by seeing early rough cuts of movies), and felt no need to respond to the dangers until arrests were made and he was confronted with the situation in the press, by myself, Jeff Wells, and others. Gerhard and Cofer will be able to do their time and get on with their lives, but as long as Knowles fails to give a consistent set of answers about what he did know, the taint won’t wash off him anytime soon.
Here is the complete story as it appeared in the Burbank Leader:
[ TOLUCA LAKE MAN CONVICTED OF FILM FRAUD ]
Wednesday, September 20, 2000
By JENNA BORDELON
BURBANK — A Toluca Lake man has been convicted of duplicating movies that had yet to be released in theaters and selling them on the Internet.
Michæl Gerhard, 23, of Toluca Lake was sentenced to 120 days in jail or 60 days on a road crew for his role in a scheme to copy and sell such films as “Mulan” and “Fantasia 2000” on America Online and Earthlink.
Los Angeles Superior Court Commissioner Kristi Lousteau also ordered Gerhard to pay $10,900 in fines on Sept. 12.
His alleged partner, James Cofer, 25, of Burbank, is scheduled to appear in court Oct. 10. He faces a maximum of three years in prison for allegedly taking the movies from the vault he managed at New Wave Entertainment, a Burbank post-production facility.
Cofer has pleaded not guilty to charges of receiving stolen property, misappropriating a trade secret and paying a bribe for access to a trade secret.
“We will continue to prosecute the cases and hopefully by those prosecutions, we can send a message out there that this kind of activity does have its consequences,” deputy city attorney P. Greg Parham said.
The two men made more than 529 copies of 20-to-25 pre-release movies between March and November 1998, prosecutors said.
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