CHICAGO (CN) – A woman claims she was defamed and maliciously prosecuted for “video piracy” for taping 3 minutes of the “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” during a birthday party, because the theater manager wanted to collect a reward. She says a Muvico manager demanded that police arrest her and file charges after her family responded to the movie chain’s ad inviting them to “Celebrate Your Birthday Like a Star!”
Samantha Tumpach claims in Cook County Court that the staff at Muvico Rosemont 18 did not offer a “friendly warning” about using cameras in the theater. She claims that both the police and the Motion Picture Association of America recommended that the theater simply destroy the camera’s video chip, but instead, its manager Steven Buckus had her arrested.
Tumpach says she and her family responded to the Muvico ad by buying V.I.P. tickets to see the vampire movie for her sister’s birthday.
She says there was nothing secretive about their filming of short clips from the movie, which they did innocently, as mementoes of the day. Tumpach says they arrived at the theater on Nov. 28, 2009 “with cameras in hand,” and used them to take photos and videos of themselves in the V.I.P. section “in plain sight” of theater staff.
She says an usher told them not to change seats, but did not say anything about their cameras. Tumpach says none of the theater staff mentioned video piracy, which is a class 4 felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison.
Tumpach says the usher told Buckus, who watched as she “naively recorded a minute and 25 seconds” of the movie.
Tumpach says she just wanted to tape “her favorite actor taking his shirt off.”
She says Buckus called police, saying he had witnessed video piracy and demanded that she be arrested.
Tumpach claims that the responding officer determined that during the 67 minutes that the movie had been playing, “there appeared to be one recording approximately 114 seconds long and a second recording approximately 85 seconds long as well as celebratory birthday photos on Samantha’s camera.”
But Tumpach says Buckus insisted that she be charged, even after the officer suggested that they simply erase or destroy the camera’s video chip.
Tumpach says she was then handcuffed and led away in front of “numerous theater guests,” as she “cried with fright, humiliation and shame.”
She says that officers tried again to resolve the situation and called the Motion Picture Association of America, which recommended that the memory card be cleared from the camera and that the police generate an incident report. But Buckus insisted that a felony complaint be filed against her, she says. She spent two nights in jail.
Tumpach claims that Buckus “signed the criminal complaint in hopes of collecting a reward for providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a person engaged in video piracy, when he very well knew that she was guilty of no such act.”
She says that her arrest became the “subject of intense media coverage,” and she received harassing phone calls.
The felony charges were dismissed.
Tumpach demands damages from Muvico Entertainment for malicious prosecution, emotional distress, negligence and defamation. She did not name Buckus as a defendant.
She is represented by Howard Kavenow.