Francis Now Granted Bail in Reno

Tom Hymes
RENO, Nevada — The cross-country legal saga of Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis took another turn today when he was granted bail by U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid, with the understanding that Francis will return to Florida immediately to face charges stemming from his purported filming of underage girls during spring break in 2003.

This latest move comes on the heels of a decision last week by U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval denying Francis bail in Reno without also removing the threat of his being extradited back to Florida.

According to the Associated Press, Francis' attorney, Fred Atcheson, today informed McQuaid that Florida had agreed to lift its no-bail arrest warrant, clearing the way for Francis to post bail in Reno and return to Florida without duress.

"Florida is not going to arrest him," Atcheson told the court. "What happens in Florida, I believe, will conclude the matter." Atcheson gave the court a cashier's check for $1.5 million to cover bail in Reno.

Atcheson also told the judge that Francis plans to return to Panama City, Florida tomorrow, accompanied by his lawyers, and will appear in court Wednesday to try to resolve the 2003 charges.

"Today I posted my bond in Reno so that I can immediately return to Florida to face the charges against me," Francis said in a statement.

The Reno charges stem from the government's assertion that Francis' companies, Mantra Films Inc. and Sands Media Inc., claimed more than $20 million in phony deductions in 2002 and 2003, and used offshore accounts to conceal that income.

Trial on the tax fraud charges is set for August, with penalties that carry a possible prison term of up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.