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April 06, 2007

Girls Gone Wild creator ordered to jail

The creator of the Girls Gone Wild video series, Joe Francis, has been sentenced to jail for contempt of court because he threatened women trying to sue him:

Los Angeles- The millionaire creator of the Girls Gone Wild video series has been ordered to jail in connection with a lawsuit alleging that his film crews pressured girls to appear in sexually explicit situations, reports said Friday. US District Court Judge Richard Smoak issued the order following the breakdown of court-ordered mediation between Francis and lawyers for the seven plaintiffs, who claimed that Francis had threatened them during the negotiations and hurled obscenities at them.

Smoak ruled that Francis' behaviour had placed him in contempt of court. A lawyer for Francis has appealed the jail order while Francis himself risks a further contempt judgment with his withering comments about the judge.

"This judge has gone as far as to call me the devil and an evildoer," Francis said. "It is a case of a judge gone wild." [DPA]

More details here.

Francis has a history of erratic and aggressive behavior. Back in August, LA Times writer Claire Hoffman alleged that Joe Francis attacked her while she was reporting on him for the paper.

Update: Looks like Francis is in meta-contempt of court for refusing to show up to start serving his initial contempt sentence.  

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I was under the impression that he's still out under appeal. That was eralier today though.

You're right, he's not in custody yet. But I don't think he's out pending an appeal. He's out in meta-contempt. He didn't show up in court today. Francis was legally required to show up to start serving his contempt sentence, but he skipped out.

Whoah, I had a hella typo there.

Francis is a toad, IMO.

I don't know all the specifics of his case, but whatever it takes to get that motherfucker behind bars is good enough for me. I'd rather see him in jail for something more serious like sexual exploitation (especially of minors<)/a>, or even deceptive practices. But hey, they sent Capone to jail for tax evasion, so I guess this will have to do, at least for now.

I'm a little confused by what you mean by saying you'd like to see him in jail for "sexual exploitation (especially of minors)." Is it your position that our justice system should send people to jail for "sexual exploitation" of adults? I think most people would think that traditional categories of rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, assault, and the like adequately cover the activities for which one's sexual behavior toward another adult should be punishable with prison.

Knowing that many of his prospective fellow inmates might be protective fathers of teenage daughters, it's not hard to see Mr. Francis' reluctance to be locked up in a place where encountering a bit of "sexual exploitation" himself is a distinct possibility.

John Lucid, I'd be interested in your response to aeroman's question, especially in light of the fact that the "sexual exploitation" detailed in the link you are citing is failing to create and maintain age and identity records for films it produced. It's distressing to see you suddenly carrying water for Alberto Gonzalez's Justice Department, the source for the link, but it's unfortunately not uncommon for people normally concerned with civil liberties turn into law-and-order types when confronted with expressions of sexuality they find disturbing.

You know parse, for a guy who's such a stickler about precise meaning you seem awfully willing to jump to the conclusion that I'm suddenly willing to carry water for Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department. Joe Francis failed to maintain age and identity records for films he produced (as required by a law in effect since the mid 90's, before Bush was president). Therefore it's impossible to determine how many minors were in his films. ILLEGALLY. Is it bad or un-American to require a soft-core porn producer to maintain these types of records? Does that suddenly make me a law-and-order type simply because I don't want to see underage girls exploited by that scumbag?

I'm not a prude, and the images themselves don't disturb me. (One more thing you not-so-subtly imply, parse.) HOW the images were obtained is what disturbs me. And even when they are legal adults in the films, how many of them are too drunk out of their skulls to give informed consent? To me that's also exploitative. Do you think Mr. Francis is such a bastion of ethics that he would only entice women who are sober to perform in his films, or do you think he might be buying a few hot girls a few drinks so they'll be more compliant to his requests?

I'm no lawyer, so I don't know how well a contract holds up in court if one of the parties was enticed to sign while under the influence. Nonetheless, I still believe that this has happened in many cases in "Girls Gone Wild" videos, and it's reprehensible. And this also isn't about chivalry; if any guys were used in a similar manner I'd feel the same way.

Carrying water for Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department? Parse, a while back I seem to recall you debating the legality of certain torture methods authorized by Abu Gonzales's Justice Department. Can I safely assume that you're pro-torture then? If not, then back off making statements about me that you have NO way of supporting.

You carry water for the Justice Department when you accept uncritically the characterization of failing to create and maintain age and identity records for films it produced as sexual exploitation. That behavior is illegal, as you point out, but it is not, by any reasonable definition of the term "sexual exploitation."

The law mandating the record keeping is itself a serious threat not only to the First Amendment but to basic principles of justice. The law says the government is entitled to presume sexually explicit images are child pornography unless the producers can prove that they are not, shifting the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defendant.

I don't know much about the Girls Gone Wild series and don't have an interest in in. If Francis is as unsavory as you claim, he makes a convenient tool for the Justice Department to rationalize its attack on free expression, a campaign that's also marked by the increased enthusiasm for obscenity prosecutions under the Bush Administration.

It's been my experience that the claim "I'm not a prude" is one heard more often from those who are, in fact, prudes than from those who genuinely support free expression. Perhaps you are the exception to that rule, but I'd still be interested in your answer to aeroman's question: Is it your position that our justice system should send people to jail for "sexual exploitation" of adults?

Finally, I believe you are mistaken. I have not debated here the legality of certain torture methods authorized by Abu Gonzales's Justice Department, and I have not, here or elsewhere supported the Justice Department's attempts to legitimize the practice.

I suppose it's time for me to make my perfunctory humorless comment: I really wish that we wouldn't joke about things like "a place where encountering a bit of 'sexual exploitation' himself is a distinct possibility." Francis is a toad, yes, but even toads don't deseve to be raped. The fact that our prisons have become hellholes where rape and torture are commonplace, and the fact that so many of us have come to think of that as a normal part of punishment, even as funny, is a national disgrace.

Just because I don't answer questions to your satisfaction doesn't mean they haven't been answered, parse. Are adults who are drunk when they sign consent forms being exploited? Yes, that's what I mean. Is that clear? Are ALL adults in pornography being exploited? No. Is that clear too? Free expression has limits, especially when it comes to child welfare. If you disagree with the law, fine. I, however, don't see how it infringes on someone's freedom of expression to require them simply to ask for some ID and then record the information so that you don't accidentally film minors in sexual acts. God, I'm such a censorious, freedom-hating prude.

And using anecdotal evidence (It's been my experience that the claim "I'm not a prude" is one heard more often from those who are, in fact, prudes...) to support your claim about about people who deny being prudes? Your methods are getting a little sloppy, especially for a guy whose screen name imparts such exacting standards. I like viewing porn sometimes, but not the violent or degrading type. Maybe it makes me a "prude" that I don't want to watch simulated rape or six guys shooting semen in a woman's face at the same time. Sorry if I'm not such a libertine as you.

And though I am unable to find the specific post from last summer that Lindsay wrote, you DID argue about the finer legal points of waterboarding (a type of torture) here. I believe you are mistaken.

We require companies of a perfectly prudish sort to keep financial records for the government's inspection. That this violates the presumption of innocence would certainly be a novel argument.

Also, Matt is spot on. It's disappointing to see liberals joke about prison rape when it threatens someone we don't like, just like when I see liberals hurling sexual slurs at female conservative pundits. There are plenty of ways to express our disgust with these people that don't lessen ourselves - even if one isn't James Wolcott, one can always say "fuck you, you fucking fuck" or something else that's easy to say and condemns the targeted evil without endorsing another one.

What I said about waterboarding was that I thought one reason it was difficult to get some people to take the practice seriously as torture was that common descriptions of it might not communicate vividly the visceral horror of the practice--the physical act of pouring water in someone's nose seems trivial unless you can imagine the psychological effect of the almost immediate sensation that one is drowning.

Your claim is that what you are objecting to as an example of sexual exploitation is the practice of filming adults in sexually explicit behavior after obtaining their consent while they were drunk. But the link you provided for "sexual exploitation" wasn't about that; it described as sexual exploitation the failure to keep accurate records. Yes, we can disagree about the wisdom of laws mandating such records, but I don't think you've made a convincing argument that failure to maintain accurate records is a genuine example of sexual exploitation.

I didn't offer anecdotal evidence to support any general claim about people who claim they aren't prudes--I offered it instead of any generalization about such people. It may indeed be the case that the people I meet who deny prudishness are not representative of the general class of people who offer such denials. All I can do is provide what my own experience has taught me, and invite others to decide for themselves.

Matt, thanks for making the point about the trivialization of prison rape. It's particularly distressing when those who make such remarks claim to be motivated by concern for victims of sexual exploitation.

"condemns the targeted evil without endorsing another one"

Did I endorse another one? Men like Mr. Francis do have something to fear i.e. rape, in prison, which fact is generally not taken into account in sentencing. Francis can't go to any prison in the country without being seen as basically a "short eyes" with all that that entails.

One of the very few decent things Bush and his GOP congress did was pass the 2003 prison rape elimination act. Give it a few years and we'll see if it amounts to more than just words though.

alcohol isn't a magical brew that forces you to do whatever the people around you want you to do. Being drunk does not protect you from any liability regarding legal matters. Being drunk only makes you more likely to follow your impulses, making you MORE likely to do whatever it is you want to do at a given moment. It merely removes a fear of the consequences of your actions. This bizarre belief that somehow alcohol makes women, and I only see this argument ever made about women, blameless for every action they take while drunk. In the feminist view of things, if two drunken people have sex, the man raped the woman. If a drunk woman flashes herself, she isn't a attention hungry jack-ass, she's a victim of exploitation. When men make arguments like this, it's paternalistic and sexist. When women make these arguments it's self-serving and intellectually dishonest. Either way, the view comes from self-interest and not science or common law.

As for prison rape, yes it's a sad thing people don't take it seriously. Society doesn't really take rape as seriously as it should in any of it's form. They don't really care when it happens to people unless those people are absolute paragons of purity and innocence. Prison rape would be extremely easy to virtually eliminate. You'd simply have to install a lot of cameras and prisons and prison guards liable for any such acts. You'd see prison rape ended overnight as states worried about going bankrupt. Laughing at this man because he's going to be raped is sick and disgusting. It's part and parcel to this whole notion that this man deserves jail because he's doing something most of us dislike. Arresting him for the alleged rapes is one thing, but most of this prosecution seems to rely on CIPA and 18 U.S.C. § 2257, neither of which are expected to be upheld when they reach the supreme court.

Joe Francis has been accused of various forms of sexual exploitation of legal adults and minors who were of legal age to consent to sex. If he's found guilty rape, soliciting sexual performances for money and/or under false pretenses, neglecting the safety of his employees in criminally negligent ways (such as condoning or covering up abuse by his employees), then he almost certainly deserves to go to jail.

I don't think bad record-keeping should send him to the slammer, but he deserves to be fined for not keeping his personnel records.

I expect employers to keep a record of their employee's ages in order to prevent child labor. I don't see why soft core porn producers should have a lesser record-keeping burden than, say, McDonalds'.

Lindsay, I believe that the record keeping requirements of 18 U.S.C. § 2257 are a considerably greater record-keeping burden than McDonald's. For example, McDonald's doesn't have to attach the information proving the age of its employees to every burger produced in its restaurants, nor is it a crime to sell a Big Mac without such proof attached.

With all do respect to Lindsey Beyerenstein, but that's not how employment records work. The people you work for simply have to certify that they have seen proof of age and citizenship. They do not have to keep copies of your personal information. People in the adult industry are not simply required to certify that they have proof of age and citizenship, they are required to keep copies of such proof at a physical location for as long as they are in business. Not only that, but products produced by company A and also displayed on a site by company B require that both company A and company B hold physical copies of this personal information at all times. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but we don't force SEARS to hold the employment records of all LEVI/Garrett employees just because they sell LEVI/Garret products. Also, last time I checked McDonalds doesn't have to hold your employment records on site for the entire time their company is in business, just for so long as they work there.

There are two problems with this. Firstly, pornography is generally viewed as protected speech. As such, it can be unconstitutional to put onerous regulation on the creation or distribution of it. These regulations are clearly designed to put financial strain on the creation of this material, as well as creating difficulty in the marketing and distribution of this material. If this was done purely for that reason, as it seems to have been done as there were no problems with underage children in mainstream porn when these regulations were expanded, then they are no more legal than an outright ban would be. The test isn't whether it EVER prevents child pornography. The test is whether it EVER prevents legitimate material from being created and distributed. I don't see how these regulations pass that test.

The second problem is an obvious privacy issue. I don't think taking you clothes off should mean that there are copies of your birth-certificate and SS cards floating all over creation. If a woman does one video in college, she can have those records kept on more than a dozen sites because she was really pretty and a lot of other sites bought the rights to distribute that video. Each and every one of those sites now has copies of every last bit of her personal info, from her SS # to intimate details of her medical history. It's only going to take one untrustworthy person at just one of those sites to open that woman up to either blackmail or identify theft.

The way you describe the actual record-keeping scheme for pornographers, it does sound excessively onerous and poorly thought-out.

I thought that porn companies just had to certify that they'd seen proof of age, like other businesses do. I think that's an entirely reasonable requirement. Did GGW even do that much? As I said above, I don't think they should get away with doing less than McDonalds to certify that their subjects are of age.

Lindsay, describing the record-keeping requirements as "poorly thought out" suggests that they have a legitimate purpose but suffer from design flaws. I think you can make a better case that the laws are expressly designed to be excessively onerous. It's not a poorly drafted law aimed at protecting minors but a well-crafted law aimed at limiting free expression.

Just think what Francis could have accomplished if only they hadn't outlawed/banned and burned the formula to the genuine female Viagra - the Qualude.

Who's "they?" They is "the man."

The only charges they've been convicted on so far are the 18 U.S.C. § 2257 violations. I'm not sure how the panama city charges are going to go, but most of them were dropped. Personally, I think they used the best tactic to use against GGW. Their practices are really shady and the behavior of their crew's is often illegal. They should be charged more by local authorities when they harass people. I have no doubt that Francis will get sent to prison sooner or later. He's just too violent and too impulsive not to. I's not like GGW goes away when he does, though.

The problem with 18 U.S.C. § 2257 isn't that it's a poorly done way of reaching a noble goal. It's doing exactly what it's purpose is to do. It was never designed to protect children from entering into porn. Only mainstream adult business are going to abide by these laws. Mainstream adult business don't want to deal with underage girls. Well, they probably WANT to, but they have real assets to protect and wouldn't want the liabilities. It's no like underage girls doing porn pop up all the time. I just wish people who wanted to ban porn would just come out and say so instead of hiding behind children. I'm not accusing anyone here of doing that, it just seems like the primary motivation of those who work to push through these sorts of regulatory changes.

“Prison rape would be extremely easy to virtually eliminate. You'd simply have to install a lot of cameras and prisons and (hold) prison guards liable for any such acts.”

In your dreams. The American prison population has been increasing for the last 28 years. 2.2 million are incarcerated now, up from roughly 1/1000 in the first half of the 20th century to 7/1000 now. Prison budgets are already stretched to the limit. Who will pay for installation, security, maintenance and monitoring of the cameras? In the federal prisons there’s still enough money and a standard of professionalism and oversight that keeps rape relatively rare. State prisons and local jails are another matter. Even barring overcrowding, and the occasionally corrupt staff, much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners is necessarily left to the inmates themselves with predictable results. Incarceration serves two purposes: isolating criminals and providing politicians, judges, and D.A.s a measurable standard with which to pander to a vindictive electorate. Sadly, a prisoner fearing rape can’t do much more that write letters to Chuck Colson and hope that budget-conscious governors and legislators notice that prisons are draining funds from other pork barrel projects.

Regarding Joe Francis, the guy’s a bottled-in-bond turd who has done yeoman’s service promoting the Maxim/FHM, yob/lad culture. He’s made whatever bed he’ll wind up lying in. Should the ACLU take up his cause I won’t stop sending them checks, but he’s made himself such a distasteful spectacle that the ACLU will almost certainly prefer to defend nearly any other pornographer.

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