Court throws out theft, fraud charges against 'Girls Gone Wild' producer


A district judge on Wednesday tossed out theft and fraud charges against "Girls Gone Wild" producer Joe Francis in a case stemming from his failure to pay a multimillion dollar gambling debt to Wynn Las Vegas.

In her 12-page decision, District Judge Linda Bell said Francis had no intent to defraud because the Wynn waited 16 months to cash the marker, or after "the ordinary course of business," which is considered to be less than six months.

Bell said the evidence presented to the grand jury also failed to support a theft charge because Francis had enough money in one of his bank accounts when the Wynn gave him the marker.

Francis has maintained his innocence from the beginning.

"This is a total victory," an ecstatic Francis said in a telephone interview.

He said he plans on suing Steve Wynn for malicious prosecution.

"I plan on going after Steve Wynn for everything this case has cost me financially and what it has done to my reputation," the soft-porn king said.

Francis' lawyer, David Houston, added, "I don't imagine any business would stay afloat if that business would hold checks for 16 months and hope for success," Houston said. "There was no case here to begin with."

Bell ruled that prosecutors failed to present "slight or marginal" evidence to the grand jury, the lowest burden of proof in criminal law.

Prosecutors did not respond to a request for comment on Bell's ruling.

A Wynn spokeswoman declined to comment.

At the request of the Wynn, the district attorney's office opened the criminal case against Francis in 2008 over a $2.5 million marker, though Francis had paid $800,000 to the casino.

Houston said Wynn executives did some "shifty accounting."

According to grand jury testimony, Wynn "pulled back" the $800,000 from the debt and deposited it in separate accounts before submitting the full $2.5 million marker to the district attorney's office, court documents showed.

Before submitting the criminal case, Wynn executives tried to cash the $2.5 million marker from a Wells Fargo bank account they knew was closed and not from a Morgan Stanley Bank One account that had more than $12 million, court documents showed.

Houston stopped short of calling the casino's actions criminal, but said if he had done it, he would be in jail.

Earlier, Wynn Las Vegas sued Francis in District Court for only $2 million because it had used part of the $800,000 to pay off a $300,000 marker and the rest on the $2.5 million marker.

Francis, who amassed a fortune producing videos of drunken college girls taking off their clothes, countersued, and in September 2009, District Judge Michelle Leavitt ruled in favor of the casino and ordered Francis to pay $2 million plus interest.

Francis appealed the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, which has yet rule.

Meanwhile, Francis said he spent the morning with Steve Wynn at a hearing for one of several ongoing civil cases the two are involved in.

When asked how those cases were going, Francis said, "A lot better now."

Francis said he still loves visiting Las Vegas and enjoys staying at the Aria and the Hard Rock Hotel. He didn't think he would be staying at the Wynn anytime soon.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@review journal.com or 702-380-1039.

 

Rules for posting comments

Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Stephens Media LLC or this newspaper. This is a public forum. Read our guidelines for posting. If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon next to the comment.