LOS ANGELES — An appellate court today upheld a $19 million judgment against deposed Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis in a slander case filed over his claims that casino mogul Steve Wynn had threatened to kill him.
The California 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles found no basis to overturn the judgment or order a new trial, and the justices also left in place an injunction barring Francis from repeating the claims, the Associated Press reported.
After a 2012 trial, a jury found that Francis' statements about threats were defamatory and a judge ordered him not to repeat the statements. Both Francis and Wynn testified during the trial.
Francis said he was told Wynn had threatened to hit him in the head with a shovel and have him buried in the desert. Wynn denied making the threats and claimed the statements by Francis were damaging to his reputation and put his casino license at risk.
A jury originally ordered Francis to pay Wynn $40 million, but a judge later cut the amount by more than half. Francis appealed the verdict, arguing that he made the comments in a court proceeding over a gambling debt owed to Wynn and should not be held liable..
"We will continue to assist Mr. Wynn and Wynn Las Vegas as they vigorously pursue Francis to collect all of his debts to them, including this $19 million judgment," said Mitchell Langberg, an attorney representing Wynn.
Francis rejected the ruling, saying "We fully expect this to be overturned by the California Supreme Court expeditiously."
The ongoing legal strife with Wynn is only one of the legal fights being helmed by the beleaguered ex-Girls Gone Wild honcho.
Francis faces new contempt charges for allegedly assaulted and battered individuals at his old headquarters and because he hasn't returned two company vehicles to a bankruptcy trustee. He has been ordered to appear in court to answer the charges on July 10.