U.S. Judge Sentences Francis for 2257 Violations

Michael Hayes
LOS ANGELES — Mantra Films owner Joe Francis has been sentenced to 200 hours of community service and a $500,000 fine for his role in violating 18 U.S.C. § 2257, the federal record-keeping law designed to keep adult content producers from using underage performers.

Telling Francis that she considered the charges both “serious” and “part of an endemic problem” at Mantra Films, U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow sentenced Francis to two years probation — double what his lawyers had requested, in addition to the fine and community service obligation.

The sentence marks the second part of a multiple jurisdiction case against Francis.

Francis had pled guilty to 10 felony counts stemming from federal record-keeping violations.

In December, U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak, who presided over the Florida segment of the case, surprised Francis by tacking on a community service obligation to a $1.6 million fine levied against Mantra Films as well as a personal fine against Francis for $500,000.

Smoak ordered Francis and company officers Arthur Greenfield, Jeff Ginsberg and Scott Barbour to complete eight hours of community service each month for the next 30 months. But the judge gave Francis the option of “stepping up” by serving 16 hours per month, thereby relieving the others of their court imposed community service obligations.

Attorneys for Francis have already appealed that sentence.

Morrow’s ruling marks the second time in as many months that Francis has been surprised by a federal judge with an additional community service obligation.

His lawyer, Aaron Dyer, had told Morrow before the sentencing that community service was not necessary because his client was an “exemplary citizen” and the crime was “just a record-keeping violation.”

Under terms of the probation, Morrow also forbad Francis to travel abroad without court permission. The judge dismissed his request to travel without restriction to his villa in Mexico.

When Dyer told the court that Francis had pending business in China, Morrow said he could file papers with the court to facilitate that trip, but for the next two years all of Francis’ foreign travels would be with court permission.

Francis told reporters outside the Los Angeles courthouse that the government had unfairly persecuted him.

“Of course I've been unfairly targeted by the government,” Francis said. “What better target than Joe Francis?”

There is no word yet if Francis intends to appeal the Los Angeles portion of his sentence.