'Girls Gone Wild' Producer Faces Underage Lawsuit

Gretchen Gallen
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Joe Francis, the founder of the brand "Girls Gone Wild," has once again found himself in trouble with the law, adding to a year of ongoing litigation, police run-ins, and drug trafficking allegations.

This time, the playboy producer and owner of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Mantra Entertainment is being sued by three girls from Alabama claiming that Francis shot footage of them on spring break in Florida when they were only 17 years old. There are several similar underage lawsuits pending against Francis.

On Monday, seven of the 14 counts in the case were dismissed by a judge.

According to papers filed against Francis, all three girls, two years after the fact, claim that they were never asked their age by the "Girls Gone Wild" film crew before being captured topless on film and featured in volume eight of the "Girls Gone Wild" video and DVD series.

The film shoot occurred in Panama City, Fl. in 2002, but the lawsuit was filed in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where the plaintiff's lawyer contends the actual injury took place.

The three plaintiffs have filed their suit anonymously in the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane Doe 3.

Francis' attorney is highly critical of the three plaintiffs concealing their identities, making it difficult for the defense to determine whether a waiver on any of the three girls exists, which he claims is standard procedure for the crew of "Girls Gone Wild."

Calling the video "child porn," the plaintiff's attorney, Shannon Hutchings, claims her clients were improperly coerced to reveal their breasts, and that members of the film crew told the girls the footage would not be included in a video.

Additionally, Hutchings alleges that the girls were taunted to take off their shirts by a group of men.

"They fraudulently induced these girls, who were too young and inexperienced to understand the ramifications of their actions," said Hutchings.

The judge has yet to rule whether the plaintiffs' names will be made public.

In March of this year, Francis beat a similar underage lawsuit after a judge decided that featuring an underage girl in a "Girls Gone Wild" video was not a child porn offense.

The prosecution in the case claimed that Francis and his employees deliberately tried to film underage girls, although Francis claims that girls frequently lied about their ages.

The defense in the case was able to prove that the definition of child pornography in the state of Florida did not apply to the tape because there was no physical contact with the girl.

Separately, Francis was charged with a total of 43 counts of racketeering related to prostitution and possession of illegal substances in 2003, following a search and seizure of his Florida home. One of the drug charges, possession of oxycodone, was dropped when Francis was able to prove he had a prescription for the highly addictive painkiller.

In another brush with the law, Joe Francis filed a $25 million defamation lawsuit in April against a Texas woman who accused him of drugging and raping her at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Miami.

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