Defense Grills Mantra’s Joe Francis Over Indictment, Past Claims

Rhett Pardon
LOS ANGELES — During four hours of testimony Monday, Mantra Entertainment founder Joe Francis said that he was held up and videotaped while on his bed with his pants down. The perpetrator, according to testimony, then forced Francis to make sexually humiliating comments about himself.

The creator of the “Girls Gone Wild” video series is testifying in Los Angeles Superior Court this week over an alleged break-in at his Bel-Air mansion.

Francis said he was “scared to death” when Darnell Riley, 28, raided his home the night of Jan. 22, 2004 and shot the film. Later, Riley allegedly threatened to distribute the video unless Francis paid him $300,000 to $500,000.

Francis, 32, testified at the preliminary hearing for Riley, who faces six felony counts of burglary, robbery, carjacking, kidnapping and attempted extortion. Riley has pleaded not guilty.

Francis also said Riley looted his home “like he was on a shopping spree,” taking his cellphone, Louis Vuitton luggage, a Picasso drawing, his watch and $1,100 in cash.

But on Tuesday, the tables were turned.

Defense counsel Ronald Richards asked Francis about a theft arrest in North Carolina.

He also queried Francis on a case pending in Florida alleging that he videotaped minors for one of his productions and was charged with racketeering, prostitution, obscenity, child pornography and possession of an illegal drug.

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

Francis replied: “I cannot answer any questions about this case, per advice of counsel.”

He later declined to answer half a dozen times more, citing the 5th Amendment.

Francis acknowledged that in the past he had accused four other people of extortion. But he said those cases were separate from the current case in Judge Bernard F. Kemper’s courtroom.

Police were tipped of the alleged crime from socialite Paris Hilton, Francis’ former girlfriend, who said she heard the incident discussed at a party.