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Girls Gone Wild boss gets 35 days' jail

Contempt of court ends in tears and chokey

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The founder of titillating video operation Girls Gone Wild has been jailed for 35 days for contempt of court, AP reports.

Joe Francis, 34, was recently arrested on a contempt citation he earned "during negotiations in a civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underage when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003".

Lawyers for the litigants reported that Francis "became enraged during the settlement talks, shouting obscenities at the lawyers and threatening to 'bury them'".

US District Judge Richard Smoak subsequently ordered Francis to settle the case or face jail. Negotiations apparently broke down earlier this month, and Smoak duly issued the contempt of court warrant. Francis refused to give himself up, calling Smoak "a judge gone wild".

Francis was then arrested and held without bail at Florida's Bay County Jail pending his final appearance before Judge Smoak yesterday. Francis reportedly cried throughout the hearing, bewailing: "I am sorry for my behavior. It was wrong. I had heard about appeals and things and I was confused. I am sorry, I really am."

Judge Smoak was having none of it, and told Francis' lawyer: "It seems like at every opportunity he made clear his intent to disobey this court. This final act of contempt was the last of many things in this case. Mr Francis' behaviour at the mediation was hostile, obscene, vulgar, and abusive. Every effort was made to avoid getting to this point."

Francis' woes don't end with his 35-day contempt sentence, AP notes. He's also "facing state charges for allegedly offering a jail guard $100 for a bottled water and having prescription sleeping pills in his Bay County Jail cell".

Francis was also indicted this month by a federal court in Reno, Nevada, "on charges that his companies claimed more than $20m in false business expenses".

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, he's "on probation on a federal criminal case in Los Angeles for violating federal laws designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors". ®

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