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Alleged Extortionist of 'Girls Gone Wild' Creator to Stand Trial

December 21, 2005|Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writer

The man accused of shaking down the creator of the "Girls Gone Wild" video series was ordered to stand trial Tuesday after the alleged victim testified that tabloid darling Paris Hilton was also extorted.

Video kingpin Joe Francis, 32, testified at the preliminary hearing that defendant Darnell Riley broke into the Los Angeles apartment Hilton shared with her sister, Nicky, and stole items including videotapes.

Francis said Riley then demanded that Paris Hilton pay him $20,000 a month in extortion money. Francis later said outside court that Riley victimized 10 people in a similar fashion and that Francis was the only one who came forward despite the threat of physical harm. In court, Francis testified that Paris Hilton was his "ex-ex-girlfriend."

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Hoon Chun would not comment on Francis' allegations, citing an ongoing police investigation.

Defense attorney Ronald Richards said Hilton had contradicted Francis' story, telling police in a tape-recorded interview that she had not been Francis' girlfriend and that she had never been the victim of extortion.

"That's another example of Joe Francis fabricating information when it suits him," Richards said. "Riley has never been charged with extorting anybody else, ever."

Hilton could not be reached for comment. Her representatives would not comment or did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Francis has made a fortune persuading young women to bare their breasts for the camera. He testified Monday that Riley broke into Francis' Bel-Air mansion Jan. 22, 2004, pulled a gun and forced him to pose for a demeaning videotape. Francis said Riley threatened to distribute the video unless Francis paid him $300,000 to $500,000.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernard F. Kemper ruled Tuesday that there was enough evidence for prosecutors to go forward with most of their case but ordered one of two kidnapping charges dropped.

Riley, 28, has pleaded not guilty to the remaining five felony offenses: burglary, robbery, carjacking, attempted extortion and kidnapping.

The ruling followed two days of sometimes heated exchanges between Francis and Richards.

Richards asked Francis about a theft arrest in North Carolina. Francis conceded the arrest, but said the case was dropped.

Francis refused to answer questions about a pending Florida case charging him with racketeering, prostitution, obscenity, child pornography and possession of an illegal drug for allegedly filming minors for one of his videotapes.

"Is it true you have a 47-count indictment against you in Florida?" Richards asked.

"I cannot answer any questions about this case, per advice of counsel," Francis answered.

Under questioning by Richards, Francis acknowledged that in the past, he had accused four other people of extortion in separate cases. "Nobody else broke into my house and put a gun to my head," he said.

Outside court, Francis told reporters, "Even if you think I'm a bad guy because I do 'Girls Gone Wild', it didn't give him the right to break into my home and rob me and threaten me."

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