Flatulent Deposition Costs ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder $2m Judgment

Joe Francis, creator of the soft porn “Girls Gone Wild” franchise, found out the house always wins when the Nevada Supreme Court upheld a casino’s summary judgment for $2 million in gambling debts. The case, brought by the Wynn Las Vegas, turned when Francis delivered what District Judge Michelle Leavitt called “the most ridiculous exercise of the Fifth Amendment I think I’ve ever seen” during a deposition.

In 2007, still flush with power and money from his bare-chested sensation, Francis went to the City of Sin where he lost the money gambling at the Wynn. After making several efforts to collect, the casino filed a civil suit, and later a criminal complaint of theft and passing a bad check. A deposition was taken in 2009 in California, as he couldn’t travel outside the state where he was facing federal tax evasion charges. When Francis showed up for his deposition, he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to answer most questions, including whether he had been to Nevada, whether he was married, whether he had been to the Wynn and the names of his parents. He even refused to acknowledge whether he had a cell phone, even though he constantly checked his e-mail and took a call on his cell phone during the deposition. To top matters, lawyers for Wynn asserted Francis repeatedly attempted “to disrupt the deposition with flatulence.”

Interestingly, this sort of behavior was something of an improvement for Francis, who in 2007 received 35 days in jail for yelling obscenities during a mediation to settle a lawsuit filed by seven women who were minors at the time they were filmed in Panama City. Afterward his (third) defense attorney claimed he had “put a lot of his foolish behavior behind him,” but Francis instead opted to switch to his Fifth Amendment tomfoolery. An example from the Panama City deposition is excerpted below:

Q. Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
A. I don’t understand what that means.

Q. You don’t understand what being a convicted felon is?
A. No. Can you explain it to me?
Q. Did you serve any time in jail?
A. What do you mean “serve”?

Q. Do you know what a prisoner is?
A. No.
Q. Do you know what a cellmate is in jail?
A. No.
Q. Do you know what a jail is?
A. Sort of

These deposition antics during the Panama City deposition nearly caused a default judgment against him.

When the Wynn filed a motion for a summary judgment, Francis said he wanted to withdraw his Fifth Amendment answers and continue the deposition. Judge Leavitt refused to reopen discovery and granted summary judgment in favor of the casino. Francis appealed, and looked to find some success this past September when the criminal complaint against him was dismissed The Nevada Supreme Court, however, agreed with the District Court’s decision, noting “[a]lthough answering some of Wynn’s questions at his deposition could have been incriminating, his refusal to answer nearly every question was unjustifiable.”

Francis is now ordered to pay $2 million of the original $2.5 million marker (or credit), because Francis had paid a portion of the money back. With interest and court costs, could reach $3 million.

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