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`Gone Wild' creator gets prison sentence

Video maker Joe Francis also is fined $5,000 after pleading guilty to a contempt charge.

April 24, 2007|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge Monday sentenced the founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" empire to 35 days in prison and fined him $5,000 after he pleaded guilty to a criminal contempt charge.

Joe Francis, the Santa Monica-based multimillionaire who has made a fortune selling risque videos of scantily clad women, was arrested by federal marshals two weeks ago after he failed to meet a deadline to appear in court.

"We're disappointed Joe was convicted on one of the charges, but at least the end of this ordeal is in sight," Jan Handzlik, Francis' attorney, said in a statement. "It's pretty unusual for a businessman to be shackled, jailed and held in solitary confinement, all stemming from his failure to mediate and settle a civil case."

Francis could have received as much as six months in federal custody. He has already served 14 days of his sentence.

At a hearing in Panama City, Fla., U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak dismissed a separate contempt charge that Francis had perjured himself during a court hearing.

Smoak had ordered Francis' arrest after a last-minute breakdown in talks to settle a civil lawsuit filed by seven young women who alleged that they were victimized by Francis' film crews during filming in Florida in 2003.

Separately, Francis recently was indicted on two counts of tax evasion by a federal grand jury in Reno. Francis is accused of deducting more than $20 million in false expenses on corporate income tax returns filed in 2002 and 2003 by two of his companies.

Handzlik called the indictment unwarranted.

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