U.S. Judge Orders Joe Francis Jailed

Anne Winter
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak has ordered "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis to turn himself in to authorities by noon CDT today to begin serving jail time for contempt of court.

In 2003, Francis was sued by seven underage girls who appeared in his "Girls Gone Wild" videos, and Smoak had ordered the two sides to participate in a two-day mediation. However, after a three-minute profanity-laced outburst made by Francis on March 21, Smoak found him to be in contempt of court, stating Francis had made it clear he had not intended to abide by the judge's mediation order.

Smoak then ordered Francis to be jailed until the two sides could "mediate in good faith," and to pay the girls 75 percent of the legal fees pertaining to the future mediation.

However, Smoak rescinded his order Saturday after learning Francis had not only mediated with the plaintiffs, but also made a settlement offer. The girls accepted the agreement, only to find out Tuesday that Francis had drastically changed his the deal.

The plaintiffs' lawyer, D. Ross McCloy, said the offer seemed to be completely different from the original and that it was unacceptable. The new offer included paying the plaintiffs using a payment plan, which would have taken years to complete, rather than in a lump sum.

Smoak now has given Francis until noon CDT today to turn himself in to Panama City authorities and begin his original jail sentence, which would last until a "meaningful mediation" takes place, and the amount of money Francis must pay to the plaintiffs has been increased to cover legal work done between Friday and Tuesday.

Smoak had no comment as to whether the original sentence would be increased if Francis fails to turn himself in on time.

Adult attorney Lawrence Walters told XBIZ that if Francis fails to appear in Panama City today, he would receive a second charge of contempt of court and a bench warrant for his arrest would be issued.

"He would be a wanted fugitive, basically," Walters said.

A representative for Francis said he has no information until later today, when he will likely release a statement.