Joe Francis Asks for Investigation of Fla. AG

Joanne Cachapero
RENO, Nev. — “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis’ attorneys have called for an investigation of Florida State Attorney General Steve Meadows after alleging that Meadows allowed exhibition and dissemination of child pornography.

The footage in question is being used as evidence against Francis and his production company Mantra Pictures, in a case filed by the state of Florida involving several incidents that took place during a Spring Break event in Panama City, Fla., in 2003.

The video clip shows two women in a motel room shower performing various sexual acts; the women were later found out to have been underage.

A few minutes of the video aired on the Nov. 9 episode of "ABC Nightline News," in a segment by anchorman Martin Bashir, who obtained the clip from Meadows.

The segment profiled Francis and his ongoing legal debacle involving charges brought against him in Florida state court in connection with events during the Panama City filming.

Though obscured from view on the ABC program, Francis’ counsel stated that since Meadows was aware of the women’s underage status, that by allowing the ABC reporter to view the tape and then broadcast it, he had potentially violated child pornography laws.

According to Francis’ attorneys, the footage was shot by an independent contractor at an event in Panama City, Fla., and that the two women lied about their ages on signed model release forms.

In the video clip, an off-camera voice can be heard offering increasing amounts of money to the women, if they will perform certain sexual acts. Francis said that he was unaware of the actions of the cameraman and had Francis himself been present that no such incident would have occurred.

"Meadows' screening party of child pornography to Bashir and others not only violates the girls' right to privacy, it constitutes a second-degree criminal offense," Francis’ attorney David R. Houston said.

Houston represents Francis’ interests in Reno, Nev., where he currently is incarcerated on tax evasion charges. Reportedly, Francis has refused to post bail in Reno and remains in jail to avoid returning to Florida to face further jail time and charges filed in the Panama City incident.

In addition to asking for an investigation of Meadows, Francis’ Florida-based lawyer Roy Black has filed a motion that charges against Francis be dismissed based on prosecutorial misconduct and on Meadows’ alleged violations of rules of professional conduct.

Black stated in the motion: "The irony of Meadows' actions in playing the videotape, is that Steve Meadows is prosecuting Joseph Francis under Section 827.071, because the two young women in a hotel room shower, performing sexual acts on themselves and each other, were only months shy of turning 18.”

“Meadows charged Mr. Francis even though Francis was not involved in the filming, both young women voluntarily participated in the filming, were seen on the videotape lying about their ages, were videotaped signing releases giving permission for their images to be used and acknowledging that they were 18 years old. Both of the young women were physically mature, well-endowed, one had a tattooed buttock and both could easily be mistaken to be 18 years of age or older,” the motion goes on to state.

“Steve Meadows, on the other hand, knowing that the young women in the videotape were children, personally invited Martin Bashir to view the very videotape of child pornography upon which he bases his prosecution of Joseph Francis. As the state attorney, Steve Meadows is Bay County's chief law enforcement official. One would presume that he, better than anyone else, would know that the presentation or exhibition of child pornography is a crime,” said Black.

Houston has filed an emergency motion with the federal district court in Nevada, asking that a detainer issued by the Florida state court be overridden because the Florida court is “incapable of adjudicating the matter fairly.” If the motion is successful, Francis would then be able to post bail without facing further jail time.

The "Nightline" segment profiling Francis’ legal woes can be viewed at MeetJoeFrancis.com.

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