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Trials & Litigation

‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder Goes Lawyerless, Claims Credit for Witness Geometry Quiz

Posted Mar 30, 2011 10:32 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: A press release issued by Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis only hints at the troubles he is facing in a Florida courtroom as he defends himself in a lawsuit filed by four women who say their underage cameos have caused lasting emotional harm.

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak of Panama City warned Francis on Tuesday that he could be found in contempt of court for his outbursts and unconventional legal tactics, the Walton Sun reports. Smoak was particularly troubled by Francis’ questioning of a woman identified by the pseudonym “Plaintiff B,” who testified of strained family relationships, homelessness and a commitment to a mental hospital after she appeared in the video.

The Walton Sun has Smoak’s warning, delivered before Francis questioned the witness. “Mr. Francis, shut up. You’re going to have the whole jury hating you,” the judge said.

The press release, however, doesn’t mention the judge’s objections. “In a heated cross-examination,” the release says, “Francis surprised the courtroom by getting ‘Plaintiff B’ to admit she had been paid in the past to appear on camera. Under oath, Plaintiff B—a self-admitted geometry scholar—couldn't answer Francis' basic question as to what a right triangle was.”

On Thursday, Francis’ lawyering days were over. Smoak made good on his warning and held Francis in contempt of court after the video magnate asked one of the plaintiffs if she is a prostitute, according to the NewsHerald.com. He will have to pay a $2,500 fine. An hour later, Francis had hired two local lawyers to represent him.

Francis had initially decided to defend himself after lawyer Frederick Bateman withdrew from the case and sued for more than $467,000 in what he said were unpaid fees, according to ConsumerAffairs.com. Francis maintains Bateman has been paid in full, NewsHerald.com reports.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “11th Circuit Mulls Bid by ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Plaintiffs to Remain Anonymous Despite Suit”

ABAJournal.com: “ ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder Apparently Finds New Counsel, Finally”

Updated on April 1 to include developments in court on Thursday.

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