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Police Captain Enters Plea of No Contest

The 28-year LAPD veteran makes decision after judge reduces charges of DVD piracy to misdemeanors.

August 21, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

A decorated LAPD captain pleaded no contest Friday to charges she sold bootleg DVDs of recently released movies out of a friend's nail salon in Seal Beach.

Before Capt. Julie D. Nelson entered her plea, the judge reduced the piracy charges to misdemeanors, which could save the 28-year veteran's job and pension.

Authorities said they found hundreds of bootleg DVDs in Nelson's car, her La Palma home and at a friend's home in Torrance.

Nelson was arrested in December after a sting operation during which she allegedly sold counterfeit movies to salon customers.

Nelson, 52, had faced a possible prison term of seven years had she been found guilty of three felonies for possessing and selling counterfeit DVDs. Her career in law enforcement and the fact that her role in the alleged bootleg operation was argued as "very minor" by her attorney John Barnett played a part in the reduced charges.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Ray Armstrong said he "argued that the [charges] should not be reduced because Nelson was aiding and abetting the producer of the illegal DVDs and they had been doing it for a long time."

Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald agreed with Nelson's attorney, however, and reduced the charges. Though she faces a year in county jail for each of the misdemeanors, she'll probably be sentenced to community service, according to both the prosecutor and Barnett.

"Her participation in these events was very minor," Barnett said. "She had an unblemished law enforcement career and her involvement in these events was anecdotal."

The impact the convictions will have on Nelson's career could not be immediately determined Friday.

After her arrest, she was suspended with pay pending further investigation. Had she been convicted of a felony, she could have been fired.

Nelson headed the Harbor Division until she was shifted to the No. 2 slot in Hollywood last year.

There's a likelihood Nelson may retire. She has hired attorney Michael Stone to represent her in negotiations. Stone could not be reached for comment.

Though she was caught selling counterfeit DVDs, Nelson's boyfriend, Edward Monroy, allegedly produced thousands of movies at his apartment in Torrance, which one detective described as a "production studio."

At Nelson's preliminary hearing, La Palma Det. Arthur Wright said Monroy had dozens of cardboard boxes, hundreds of movie title labels and told police he bought black-market DVD masters for $50.

Monroy has not been charged with a crime. The investigation is still in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wright testified during Nelson's preliminary hearing that Monroy told him his girlfriend "wasn't in it for the money." Nelson would give Monroy $10 for the discs and sell them for $8, "just to be around him."

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