Joe Francis’ Florida Case Heats Up

Bob Preston
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, one of the architects of the porn bailout request to the federal government, is facing contempt and default in a Florida court.

The case stems from the accusation of four plaintiffs who say they appeared in “Girls Gone Wild” videos while underage back in 2003, instead saying that they were anywhere between ages 13 and 17 at the time.

Aftering being released from house arrest in connection with a tax-evasion case, Francis is now in hot water because he has failed to produce requested documents four times, the plaintiffs say.

"No other sanction will be effective with these defendants," wrote Chicago lawyer Rachael Pontikes. "These defendants have made it very public through statements they have made in the press how much money they have and how monetary sanctions do not coerce them into compliance. This court has already noted how monetary sanctions carry little weight with these defendants."

But Francis said that he's complying just fine with the court's requests. On Thursday, he said that he's put the necessary documents in his California office for the plaintiff's lawyers to inspect.

"It's laid out in a big room with a sign on the door that says ‘Welcome,'" Francis said. "We've compiled it and made it available for their inspection, which is what we're required to do. We've been waiting for them for three weeks to come out and take a look."

Confusion arises when Miami-based lawyer Roy Black joins the mix. He used to represent Francis, and he confirmed that he has about 5,000 pages of court records ready for review, but that Francis wouldn't authorize their release.

U.S. Magistrate Allan Kornblum, who is judging the case, said that Francis is trying to keep his records out of the plaintiff's hands by constantly switching lawyers. Francis is on his fourth set of lawyers for this case. The plaintiffs have asked Kornblum to hand down a default judgment against Francis.

Francis' latest lawyer, Florida-based Frederick Bateman, has filed a motion asking Kornblum to protect any of Francis' trade secrets from being made public during the discovery process. The plaintiffs have until March 11 to respond to this motion.

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