PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said he is “fully prepared” to represent himself at his trial in which four women accuse him of sexually exploiting them when they were minors.
The plaintiffs sued Francis and three corporations he controls, MRA Holdings, Mantra Films and AERO Falcons, for “filming them exposing their breasts and/or engaging in sexually explicit conduct” for the “Girls Gone Wild” series.
The lawsuit is set for March 28, but Francis has had a difficult time finding and retaining counsel. His most recent attorney, Frederick Bateman, withdrew from the case because Francis failed to follow ethical and procedural requirements, according to OnPointNews.com.
Bateman then sued Francis for unpaid fees, claiming he owes him close to $500,000. Francis said he has paid the amount due under his retainer agreement.
Last week, U.S District Judge Richard Smoak entered a default judgment against the corporations because Francis failed to secure counsel for them.
Francis has declared in court that he has been looking for representation and has contacted dozens of attorneys, attempts that he said have proven even more difficult because of his former attorney’s refusal to turn over his case file.
Corporations cannot represent themselves and a default judgment can be entered against a corporation that is not represented by a lawyer. In a default damages proceeding, a defendant can only cross-examine witnesses and object to the plaintiff's evidence.
“Defendants’ numerous [procedural] violations demonstrate a flagrant and willful disregard of the rules of the court,” Smoak said in his default motion.
If the judge does enter a default judgment against Francis at trial, he and his corporate entities would stand trial only on the issue of damages.