Trials & Litigation
Held in Contempt, But Still Victorious: ‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder Wins Civil Trial
Posted Apr 7, 2011 5:37 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
After a rocky start in a civil trial, Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis has won a lawsuit by four women who claimed their underage videos caused lasting psychological harm.
After 12 hours of deliberations that ended at about 1 a.m. today, Florida jurors found for Francis, according to WJHG.com. Jurors also refused to award damages against three of Francis’ corporations found liable in a default judgment.
Francis initially represented himself in the trial, but he hired two local lawyers last week an hour after U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak of Panama City held the video magnate in contempt of court. Smoak ruled after Francis had asked one of the plaintiffs if she was a prostitute. Smoak had chastised Francis earlier in the trial for his outbursts and unconventional legal tactics, telling Francis at one point: “Mr. Francis, shut up. You’re going to have the whole jury hating you.”
Francis’ new lawyers read depositions into the record on Tuesday to show that none of the plaintiffs mentioned their appearance in Girls Gone Wild videos as the source of their problems during psychological counseling, the News Herald reports. According to the article, the plaintiffs’ stories “went largely unchallenged in any significant way” before Francis hired his new lawyers, Rachel Seaton-Virga and Gerard Virga.