Though in Contempt (and Contemptible), Joe Francis Still Wins

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The ABA Journal reports today that the jury in the civil suit against "Girls Gone Wild" guy Joe Francis has found in his favor, after deliberating for 12 hours on Wednesday night. As I reported last week, Francis was going down in flames, and likely about to crash into a manure-heavy landfill, due in large part to his insistence on representing himself (and to his own charming personality). He finally hired lawyers after he was held in contempt, and remarkably they managed to pull out a victory.

Or maybe it is not that remarkable, considering that the lawyers actually put on some evidence instead of just, for example, asking the plaintiffs whether they were prostitutes, which had been typical of what the Journal called Francis's "unconventional legal strategy."

According to the report, the lawyers read deposition excerpts into the record to show that although the plaintiffs claimed that their exposure (so to speak) in "Girls Gone Wild" films while they were minors had caused them emotional distress, none of them had mentioned that as a possible cause of their problems during psychological counseling. Instead, they had testified to other causes that predated their encounter with Francis.

In footage that the jury did not see, one of the plaintiffs was shown telling a friend "we're going to be stars" before getting involved in a graphic scene. The judge excluded that on the grounds that it was likely to be prejudicial and that its implication that the plaintiff had consented was irrelevant, because she was under 18 at the time and could not legally consent anyway. Had the jury seen it, it would have tended to undermine her testimony in court that "[we] didn't know what we were getting ourselves into." Ultimately, it sounds like the jury concluded that whatever they thought of Francis, the plaintiffs hadn't proven that the incidents caused their harm.

I guess this illustrates two points: (1) it is almost always a good idea to have someone else represent you, especially if you happen to be a moron; and (2) we follow the rule of law, or at least we should, even — in fact, especially — when the defendant is someone we loathe.