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L.A. Police Captain Gets Probation

The 29-year veteran had pleaded no contest to possessing pirated DVDs. Film industry association sought prison term.

September 11, 2004|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County judge on Friday put an LAPD captain on probation and ordered her to perform 200 hours of community service for selling pirated DVDs -- a sentence that some in the film industry condemned as too lenient.

Capt. Julie D. Nelson pleaded no contest last month to possessing hundreds of counterfeit DVDs for sale after an Orange County judge reduced the piracy charges to misdemeanors.

If the charges were felonies, she faced nearly seven years in prison if convicted.

Reaction from the Encino-based Motion Picture Assn. of America to Nelson's sentencing by Superior Court Judge Robert Fitzgerald was swift.

"Today's sentence is completely inadequate and adds insult to injury," said John G. Malcolm, senior vice president with the MPAA's antipiracy operations.

Nelson, 52, was arrested in December after a sting operation during which she allegedly sold the counterfeit movies to nail salon customers in Seal Beach.

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

During Friday's hearing, Nelson, a 29-year veteran, apologized for her actions, and in a prepared statement said she was sorry for bringing shame on "myself, my family and fellow officers" in the department.

"I do understand there are those who will never forgive me," Nelson said.

"I have to live with the disappointment," she said.

The film industry says it loses more than $3.5 billion worldwide in revenue each year due to piracy.

In a letter to Fitzgerald, the MPAA recommended that Nelson be sentenced to prison and be ordered to pay more than $13,000 in restitution.

"In the rare case when a pirate turns out to be a police officer, fairness and justice dictates that such an individual should receive a harsher sentence than an ordinary criminal, not a more lenient one," the association letter said.

Nelson had 101 DVDs in her car at the time of her arrest, and authorities said they seized an additional 250 from her home and other vehicles. Authorities said she sold counterfeit movies for about $8 each.

Fitzgerald sentenced Nelson to three years' probation and a $1,000 fine. The charges were reduced, Fitzgerald said, because of Nelson's long career in community service and because it was her first arrest.

Orange County Deputy Dist. Atty. Ray Armstrong had argued for a tougher sentence, one that would include incarceration.

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

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

The effect of Nelson's conviction on her career is not certain.

She faces an internal LAPD hearing that could result in disciplinary action, up to termination. She has hired attorney Michael Stone to represent her during the hearing.

Stone could not be reached for comment.

Nelson's boyfriend, Edward Monroy, allegedly produced thousands of movies at his apartment in Torrance, which one detective described as a "production studio."

Part of Nelson's apology included references to Monroy, saying she was "foolishly" attracted to a man of "his character," and that it was Monroy who ran the production end.

"I did not profit from [the pirated movies]," Nelson said.

Fitzgerald said Nelson's involvement in the crime "smacks of a strange naivete ... and of misplaced love and trust."

Monroy has not been charged with a crime. The Los Angeles Police Department is still investigating.

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