.

Jury Awards Additional $20 Million in 'Girls Gone Wild' Death Threat Suit

Damages now total $40 million in defamation case involving Joe Francis, the head of a Santa Monica softcore pornography business.

Casino mogul Steve Wynn was awarded $20 million in punitive damages Tuesday in the trial of his defamation lawsuit against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis, who alleged the Las Vegas hotelier wanted him killed and buried in the desert over a $2 million gambling debt.

Francis owns Santa Monica-based Mantra Films, the production company behind Girls Gone Wild and other softcore pornography.

SEE ALSO:

The punitive damages are on top of $20 million in compensatory damages
the jury awarded Wynn on Monday. The Los Angeles Superior Court jury found that Francis acted with malice, prompting today's punitive phase.

Wynn's attorney, Barry Langberg, told jurors Tuesday that another $20 million in damages would send a strong message to Francis, but Francis attorney Aaron Aftergood insisted no further punishment was needed.

Langberg also asked Judge Joanne O'Donnell to issue a permanent injunction barring Francis from repeating his claim about Wynn making a death threat. The judge took the request under submission.

Francis maintained that music producer Quincy Jones—a friend of both men—showed him emails from Wynn containing the alleged death threats. Jones testified Thursday that he was unaware of any verbal or written threats by Wynn against Francis.

Wynn contended that the first defamatory statement by Francis occurred April 12, 2010, in Los Angeles Superior Court during a hearing concerning a $2 million gambling debt Francis ran up at one of Wynn's Las Vegas casinos. The second statement occurred outside the same courtroom, and both remarks were overheard by an Internet celebrity gossip reporter, according to the lawsuit.

Francis' lawyers maintain the second statement was a re-publication of what was said in the courtroom and therefore not actionable.

The third and final remark occurred when Francis repeated the statement recently during a national morning show television interview, according to Wynn's lawyers.

"He used the media to get it out there to who knows how many millions of people," Langberg told reporters Monday after the compensatory damages were announced. "The jury heard the evidence. I mean, there wasn't much to guess about."

Francis, who was not in court when the jury's verdict was announced Monday, posted a news story on his website in which he said, "I'm startled by the jury's verdict because it's totally unfounded, and the evidence does not support it."

During the initial phase of trial, Langberg asked jurors to award his client $12 million in compensatory damages for emotional distress and damage to his reputation.

"There is no defense. He (Francis) made it up, he did it maliciously," Langberg said.

Wynn maintained that such an accusation could negatively affect his Las Vegas business, especially in a state where gaming is heavily regulated.

But Aftergood said Langberg showed no evidence during the weeklong trial that Wynn suffered any damages. In fact, Wynn's business is going well in "global commerce," Aftergood said.

—  By Bill Hetherman

mimi September 12, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Please stick to news that has a direct impact on local residents. "Girls Gone Wild" is a national story and sleazy, at best. Ditto Joe Francis. The jury is still out on Steve Wynn's character. In any case, this item belongs in a gossip column and not in the Santa Monica Patch.
Jenna Chandler (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Hi mimi, thanks for the feedback. You don't think it's the slightest bit newsworthy that a jury ordered someone who owns a Santa Monica business to pay $40 million?
mimi September 12, 2012 at 08:29 PM
$40 mil is a staggering sum, it is true. I didn't see any mention of the business being Santa Monica based. That info, if printed, could justify reporting the story for some people. But it is a very long stretch, as well as salacious. I am not a Joe Francis fan. However, the photo you printed is nasty and looks like a mug shot. Why was a photo necessary to the story? If you believe it was relevant, than why not post an equally unflattering photo of Wynn? Bottom Line: Be objective. If you make "the patch" subjective, it becomes a blog and not an electronic newspaper.
Jenna Chandler (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM
mimi: it's the second paragraph in the story, "Francis owns Santa Monica-based Mantra Films, the production company behind Girls Gone Wild and other softcore pornography." The story is about Francis losing the lawsuit and he's the guy with the local connection—that's why I ran a photo of him, not Wynn.

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something