A tip to you budding prosecutors out there: When a judge says, "I really don't understand what we're doing here," your case is in serious jeopardy. That's what U.S. District JudgePhilip Gutierrez
said last week in Los Angeles before the U.S. Attorney's Office announced it dropped criminal charges againstMatthew Lloyd Crippen
, a 28-year-old Cal State Fullerton student out of Anaheim who was accused of illegally modifying Xbox consoles to play counterfeit video games.
During his half hour dressing down of federal prosecutors, Gutierrez was particularly perturbed that two of the four witnesses may have broken the law, reportsDigital Media Wire
Despite those FBI anti-piracy warnings at the beginning of video games, this was the first criminal case of its kind.
Original Post, December 1, 11:03 a.m.: Opening statements were scheduled this morning in the federal case in Los Angeles against Matthew Lloyd Crippen, who is accused of illegally modifying Xbox consoles to play counterfeit video games.
A federal grand jury indicted the 28-year-old Anaheim resident on two counts of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, specifically for allegedly modifying for personal financial gain technology affecting control or access to a federally copyrighted work. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prisoncharges against the Cal State Fullerton student, who was released after his August 2009 arrest on a $5,000 bond, stem from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation based on a tip from the Entertainment Software Association, a computer trade group.
The U.S. Attorney's Office claims an undercover ICE agent met with Crippen and paid him $80 to modify an Xbox console so it could play pirated games, adding that the accused allegedly boasted that he modified about three consoles a week.
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That conversation was secretly recorded, according to court papers.
A May 2009 ICE raid of Crippen's home produced more than a dozen Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony video game consoles, prosecutors said.
"Playing with games in this way is not a game," Robert Schoch, special agent in charge of the ICE investigations office in Los Angeles, says in an agency statement, "it is criminal."
Pirated games cost the industry up to $250 billion a year and a loss of 750,000 American jobs, according to industry estimates.