April 25, 2007

The "Girls Gone Wild" guy goes wild.

And goes to jail for it.
Blowing his nose and wiping away his tears, Joe Francis, 34, the multimillionaire founder of the “Girls Gone Wild” empire of breast-baring videos, pleaded guilty to contempt of court on Monday in Panama City, Fla., and was sentenced to 35 days in jail... He apologized to United States District Judge Richard Smoak for yelling during negotiations to settle a lawsuit brought by seven women who were minors when they were filmed at Panama City Beach in 2003. He said the women lied about their ages. He has reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount.
Any tears -- other than his own -- for Joe? I think not.

36 comments:

SteveR said...
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SteveR said...

Couldn't happen to a better guy. I'm not naive enough to say he started anything, but he exploited people and was arrogant about it, I find him utterly unlikeable.

Galvanized said...

Um, NO. Any filming of a minor (even if she in an adult's body) is kiddie porn. These filmmakers know that they exploit youth and highly suspected that the girls lied about their ages, but chose to risk it anyway -- for money, fame, and fully expecting to escape consequences. Well, not this time. As for the girls, their punishment for lying is that they are immortalized on film in a way that they will most probably regret later if not already. Glad he's made to answer and he's no longer laughing all the way to the bank.

Ron said...

I'd let him out if we didn't have to see his infomercials for 35 days!

It's not like Joe won't have his millions in oh, say, roughly a month from now!

Meade said...

A month from now he's to appear in court to face, apparently, tax fraud charges.

"Francis is also due to appear in court in Nevada on May 22, after a federal grand jury earlier this month returned an indictment charging him with deducting more than $20 million in false business expenses on his companies' 2002 and 2003 corporate income tax returns.

According to the indictment, Francis used offshore bank accounts and entities purportedly owned by others to conceal income he earned during 2002 and 2003.

If convicted, Francis faces up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000."

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=7&entry_id=15756

Hoosier Daddy said...

Well Hugh Hefner he isn't.

As for the 'children' I don't have a whole lot of tears for them either. In one respect we don't think twice about allowing a 16-17 year old off on Spring Break without adult supervision and then gasp in shock when they do stupid stuff like get drunk and flash thier hooters to a camera.

Don't act the fool and then people won't think you are one.

MadisonMan said...

In one respect we don't think twice about allowing a 16-17 year old off on Spring Break without adult supervision

Who's this we? The daughter will be bitterly disappointed if she thinks she's off anywhere on Spring Break without her parents while she's in High School. (I can't imagine she'd even ask!) Parents who allow that aren't being parents, they're trying to be cool friends.

peter hoh said...

Wait a second, I just got done reading on Salon that Ann is a right wing law prof who supports the objectifying of women, so how is it that she's not rushing to this guy's defense? Brain hurts.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Who's this we?

The we being the thousands of mom's and dad's who allow thier kids to venture to the warmer climates around the country on spring break. We was meant as a metaphor for society as a whole which assigns adult privledges on youths but without the responsibilities.

Parents who allow that aren't being parents, they're trying to be cool friends.

No argument from me there. If anything that goes to my point as I'll bet dollars to donuts these same cool friends who saw thier Susie as a 'big girl' on her own on spring break suddenly were wrapping them in swaddling clothes and decrying the exploitation of thier children. Its called trying to have it both ways.

My nine year old daughter knows it's wrong to run around with no shirt on so I'm assuming it's a foregone conclusion for teenagers as well.

Just to clarify something, I am not defending this guy but I also think it is reprehensible that these girls who knew exactly what they were doing are now trying to make a buck off of thier reprehensible behavior using the exuse of being a minor.

J said...

"In one respect we don't think twice about allowing a 16-17 year old off on Spring Break without adult supervision and then gasp in shock when they do stupid stuff like get drunk and flash thier hooters to a camera"

Sadly, MM, there really are parents who don't think twice about this sort of lunacy, and there are a lot worse things that can happen than showing up on a video. I'm interested in other folks' experience with this - I had never run into the phenomenon of letting high school kids go somewhere un (or very loosely) supervised for spring break/graduation until I moved to a wealthy midwestern suburb. I live in a southern suburb now and the same thing goes on. Growing up in California, I can't recall ever seeing this practice.

Galvanized said...

That's true, J. It's prevalent here, too. And I think that it is an attitude in the more affluent suburbs. Personally, I think that it's two things -- parental disinterest (which is a form of neglect) and seeing it as kind of a social prep for college, where it seems the inevitable will occur anyway. gosh, around here, we're known as prudes for disallowing the coed sleepovers and staying out all night at a beachhouse for a junior at prom. No joke..it's pathetic parenting.

Mark said...

I wonder if we'll get Inmates Gone Wild now...

Fitz said...

My position is a much easier one to maintain. Rather than advocating that Mr. should be jailed for whatever conceivable offense. I simply maintain that the advertising of soft core pornography like “Girls Gone Wild” is obscene and therefore impermissible advertising on either cable or regular television (no matter what the hour)
In this manner, Joe Francis would have never been able to amass his great fortune to begin with and would not be vilified by feminists or conservatives alike.
The simple answer is...no.
Someone simply says, "No Mr. Francis, you cannot advertise your video's on national television, cable television" (no matter the hour)
No constitutional crises, no great national debate, no first amendment quagmire.
Just one Joe Francis who doesn’t amass a fortune from pornography.
And one U.S.A. culture that wont be further degraded.
Simple.
We have to draw the line somewhere (and do) We aught have drawn it before the likes of “Girls Gone Wild” became a cultural Icon.

Pogo said...

Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway went to Aruba with more than 100 other recent High School graduates on a senior trip, along with seven adult chaperones. She was last seen partying in a bar (no chaperones).

The next year, members of my daughter's class went to Spain in a group of perhaps 20, mostly girls. Many snuck out at night to go to bars. Seemed dangerous to me, but what do I know.

1) I wonder, is it empowering or objectifying women to get them to show their breasts and grind for the camera?

2) My father-in-law used to tell his 5 daughters to come in by 12 "because nothing good ever happens to a girl after midnight."

Jennifer said...

I used to say this guy was no better than a date rapist, until I read up on him and realized he really is a rapist - or has been accused of being such multiple times.

Generally, I'm a lover not a fighter. I have such a visceral dislike for this guy that it surprises me.

This news absolutely makes my day. :D

Robert said...

Joe Francis is a vile human being. To give you an idea of just how vile, here's a disturbing profile of the man courtesy of the LA Times.

http://www.latimes.com/features/magazine/west/la-tm-gonewild32aug06,0,2664370.story

Revenant said...

Given that the women in question were drunk in nightclubs and bars at the time it is pretty obvious they were lying about their ages. I see no reason to believe they thought the women lied about their age. There is (for whatever bizarre reason) a seemingly endless supply of legal adult women willing to flash a camera, so why would the cameramen risk felony prison sentences on jailbait?

Francis' behavior is just plain weird, though. Its late-70s Larry Flynt all over again.

I read up on him and realized he really is a rapist - or has been accused of being such multiple times.

Did we learn nothing from the Duke University fiasco? Accusations mean nothing without supporting evidence.

Robert said...
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Telecomedian said...

Many of the original GGW videos weren't any different than what could be seen at any public beach in Europe.

He's not an admirable character by most standards, but he's a great example of the ridiculousness of America's views on sex and sexuality. Teen girls have used and have had their sexuality exploited by record labels, movie studios and fashion houses for years. A then-underage Lindsay Lohan just about spilled out of her tops in "Mean Girls;" underage-Hayden Panettiere wears revealing outfits on "Heroes;" Britney had showed her body off more before she turned 18 than most bathroom mirrors get to see, and Hilary Duff dated a much-older man before she turned 17.

They have all made a fortune exploiting their sexuality. Excuse me I choose to not feel sorry for slightly-underage women who feel duped by the GGW crew - they knew EXACTLY what they were getting into and what they were doing.

Drew W said...

Whenever I hear about "Girls Gone Wild," I can't help but think of its wonderful parody on "Arrested Development" as the soft-core video series "Girls With Low Self-Esteem."

The comments above from HoosierDaddy and Madison Man are absolutely right. These teenage girls were allowed to go on spring break (presumably without adult supervision), got wasted (again, presumably) and then followed the instructions of a camera-toting sleazebag to bare their breasts (and often enough, to show/do more than that, if the omnipresent "GGW" infomercials are to be believed). They were not filmed surreptitiously -- they knew exactly who this guy was and what his product was. They were happy to pose for him. I have a hard time viewing them as "victims."

There will always be sleazebags out there leering at and propositioning our daughters to do all sorts of slimy things for them. A young woman with a minimum of common sense would tell such a character to go get bent. The girls who were stupid enough to "go wild," as it were, probably deserve to spend a good long time regretting their decision. (And that would also apply to people who put up embarrassing photos of themselves on their MySpace pages and other publicly-accessible places.)

Like Revenant above, I actually believe the slimy guy when he said that the girls lied to him about their ages. There seem to be plenty of dumb young women of majority age for him to meet his quotas, so it seems unlikely that he'd run the risk of inveigling underage girls.

At least he can take some comfort in the fact that as an enterprising smutmeister, he can count on a long and profitable career ahead of him. (But to read that Francis cried at his sentencing . . . ugh! Al Goldstein could have shown him how a true pornographer should comport himself.) Of course, if the guy really is a rapist, as Jennifer says, then he needs to be arrested, tried and convicted for it -- but it's the first I've heard of it. Is there a news story to back that up?

Given the gazillions that the "GGW" series has made, I bet Ugly George -- a sleazy guy with a video camera who used to persuade women to bare their breasts for his New York public-access TV show years ago -- is kicking himself for his lack of vision.

Jennifer said...

Drew W - Read the LA Times profile linked above.

Revenant - Did we learn nothing from the Duke University fiasco? Accusations mean nothing without supporting evidence.

This is true, but having read the profile above as well as some other articles on him, I have found enough credible accusations to believe that the man's behavior goes beyond what is legal or what is right.

telecomedian - You acknowledge the sexually exploitative culture these girls are raised in and then turn around and condemn them for buying into it. Of course they hold some responsibility on a personal level, and they should answer for that to themselves, to their parents, etc... But, our legal system is pretty adamant in denying minors the responsibility in adult/minor interaction. Why shouldn't he have to answer for that?

Hoosier Daddy said...

But, our legal system is pretty adamant in denying minors the responsibility in adult/minor interaction. Why shouldn't he have to answer for that?

I don't think he was saying he (Francis) shouldn't but simply pointing out the contradictions in expectations in behavior.

As for denying minors responsibility in adult/minor interaction, I for one would like to see some changes in this area, specifically the 'older minor' such as 16 and up. I think when 16 year olds are deemed old enough to drive a 2 ton automobile on the streets and highways, a higher amount of accountability should be assigned to thier actions as opposed to a 10 year old.

We like to think that teens today have those critical thinking skills that make thier opinions on issues like global warming or Iraq pearls of wisdom yet are innocent, exploited children when they act like fools.

A lot of accountability here to go around.

Revenant said...

having read the profile above as well as some other articles on him, I have found enough credible accusations to believe that the man's behavior goes beyond what is legal or what is right.

Having read the profile (and having seen descriptions of his court behavior) he sounds like he's hopped up on amphetamines. But being violent doesn't make you a rapist, or even more likely to be a rapist.

In any case, his behavior may well go beyond "what is right", but whether it goes beyond "what is legal" is still an open question so far as I can tell (aside from his obvious guilt on the contempt of court charge, that is).

Why shouldn't he have to answer for that?

If the women in question claimed to be legal adults, and especially if they had ID cards identifying them as being over 18 (which is likely, given that they had been served alcohol) then I don't see what he has to answer *for*. Even if they didn't have ID on them, it is reasonable to me to accept claims of adulthood from people who (a) look like adults, (b) are in a place only adults can legally be, (c) are intoxicated, which only adults can legally be, and (d) claim to be adults.

Thorley Winston said...

But, our legal system is pretty adamant in denying minors the responsibility in adult/minor interaction. Why shouldn't he have to answer for that?

Well because it’s not always as simple as that. My understanding is that Francis’ standard practice is to get the flashers to sign a release so he can put them in his videos. Generally minors who enter into contracts with adults have the right to disaffirm their contracts (e.g. they’re not automatically void but they may be voidable at the direction of the minor) but every State has its own laws regarding the specifics. Florida for example, has carved out a whole series of exceptions where minors under the age of 18 (but greater than 14 or 16) are not considered legally “disabled” for the purpose of being able to consent to a contract. I’m not sure what Florida law is for exactly this sort of case but given the relative liberality they seem to show with letting younger minors enter into a binding contract, they may not automatically consider a release signed by a 16-17 year old to be voidable.

Another issue the court might look at is whether Francis knew or should have known that the flashers were under the legal age to enter into a contract when they (presumably) signed a release. If they were ages 16-17 (and likely to look like adults) and drinking in a bar as part of some college function, he could argue that he reasonably thought that they were adults (especially if the girls admitted to lying about their ages at some point). I have to agree with previous posters that as there seems to be ample supply of 18+ flashers, Francis (or rather the agent he sent out with the camera) probably wasn’t looking for underage girls.

Finally the question is what damages would they be entitled to? There are lots of people whose likeness is used without their permission (go through the current events section at a bookstore and look at the really bad photos of Presidents Bush or Clinton adorning the covers of various hack pieces) and Francis could argue that the he reasonably (in the legal sense) thought that he had a valid release signed by the 16-17 year old? His business may disgust many people but his business practices could still be legal in the State of Florida.

The preceding BTW wasn’t legal advice and shouldn’t be taken as a legal opinion about the merits of a case against Francis. Just my off-the-cuff opinions that a case against him may not be quite as clear cut as some might think.

Jennifer said...

Some good points raised by all. I have to admit that I am so biased against this man that I'm utterly unconcerned about the specifics of any particular case against him. I do realize that's unreasonable and unflattering, but ARGH he's such a skeeze.

Drew W said...

Jennifer:

I skimmed the LA Times article once -- and it was soooo long -- but I read it again more carefully after your second post. If one comes away from it thinking anything, it's that pretty much no one interviewed here -- from Joe Francis to his employees to the eager bimbos who flock around him and even the reporter herself -- is all that bright. And Francis himself seems like a creepy adolescent who grew up and found a job that richly rewarded him for retaining and celebrating his creepy adolescence. (Not unlike Howard Stern, you might say.)

The woman in the article who almost made a rape accusation against Francis, Jannel Szyszka, is a defense lawyer's dream. She admits that she was excited and willing to participate in Francis' peep show, and even went further than merely flashing the camera -- she performed hardcore sex acts for him. Ultimately, according to the article:

"She's confused, she admits, about what happened. She feels guilty, she says, for getting herself into the situation in the first place. She says she never would have undressed for the cameras if she hadn't been completely drunk. And she is adamant that she said 'no' to Francis. She says she's haunted by that night."

Despite being a crude creep, Francis is obviously smart enough to know how to stay out of trouble. Staying out of trouble is the responsibility of every adult -- which Szyszka was, albeit just barely. If, instead of cheerfully hopping into the "GGW" tourbus, Szyszka had gotten into her rental car and run down a half-dozen spring breakers in the parking lot, would we be cutting her any slack because she had gotten too inebriated to know what she was doing?

I'm no legal scholar, so I'll put it to the group: Is there a really a "but Your Honor, I was drunk as a skunk!" argument? If there is, I guess Szyszka could use it. Otherwise, I think her story should be read as a cautionary tale by any and all would-be "GGW" models. This is a story about sleazy people who exploit irresponsible people. Sorry, but I have little sympathy for anybody here, Szyszka included.

Drew W said...
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Thorley Winston said...

I'm no legal scholar, so I'll put it to the group: Is there a really a "but Your Honor, I was drunk as a skunk!" argument?

In the case of a criminal charge? Not really although evidence that the Defendant was too inebriated to form the requisite intention might change the charge from one that requires that s/he acted intentionally to one that requires that she acted recklessly (again it varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction).

It might however make a difference in a civil case though is a young woman who flashed for a video camera was drunk at the time and signed a release. She might be able to say that she didn’t really “consent” because she was legally intoxicated at the time she signed the release. But again it all depends on what the laws are in the jurisdiction and what the specific facts are.

Oh and Jennifer, I whole-heartedly agree that this guy is a total sleaze. I watched an interview he did on Tyra Banks’ show (in my defense it was on right after South Park) and he seemed to have zero conscience about what he was doing and thought he was being “noble” in giving a drunk girl a whopping 24 hours after she signed a release to call a 1-800 number and change her mind. IMO he’s a predator but what he’s done may be legal and like it or not (and even if I don’t like it in this particular case, I agree with the system), if it doesn’t violate a statute, he cannot be convicted of a crime.

A civil suit might be a different matter. While I agree with the previous posters that the young women who flashed for the cameras have to take responsibility – and they will have to deal with this for the rest of their lives when their sons, nephews, and every male in their life gets to see pictures of their indiscretion – I don’t see any reason why this creep should get to profit from it. A court could theoretically hold that any “release” they signed was invalid if Francis or his agent knew or should have known that they were too intoxicated at the time of signature to lawfully consent (again this all depends on what the laws are in the jurisdiction). In which case they might be able to sue for damages in the form of an unjust enrichment. However given the liberality of our laws regarding anything that might be related to freedom of speech or expression (outside my area), there might be First Amendment-related defenses that make such a suit difficult to maintain.

Jennifer said...

This is a story about sleazy people who exploit irresponsible people.

That, I can wholeheartedly agree with. Although I do have sympathy for the regretful, irresponsible people.

Galvanized said...

I think that these young women consider when they go before the camera only that they will feel later: "Gah, baby, look at Mommy. I was hotttt!" Poor girls. They never consider that they may actually get tired of the partying, drinking, and casual views on sex one day or, Smirnoff forbid, turn conservative.

JimM47 said...

I think it is pretty hard to feel sorry for Joe Francis. If he is in jail unjustly, I think we should feel sorry for the system that someone went to jail unjustly, but that doesn't mean I'm going to feel sorry for that man specificaly.

Though I think what he does should be legal and may be ethical, I still don't have to support the aspect of our culture that it represents.

The local morning show in my home city had an amusing piece this morning about a death-row cop-killer who is driving Francis insane simply by continually repeating "Joe Francis, Girls Gone Wild, WOOOOO!" constantly.

JimM47 said...

The whole Girls Gone Wild thing makes me wonder at the relationship between feminism and paternalism.

On the one hand it is empowering for these women to violate our cultural restraints and decide to show their breasts if they want to. And being seen as objects of sexual desire can make some women hold themselves in higher esteem.

On the other hand, the cultural restraints they are violating often make sense. They are a shield against doing things one may come to regret. And following them may be more empowering to women in general because it will help them be seen as more than sexual beings. Plus it may be low self esteem that causes girls to take value in being sexualized in the first place.

But on the other hand, can you really judge someone poorly because they have low self esteem? Don't they feel bad enough without being condemned? And how much do women really owe to other women? Maybe other women are strong enough that they don't need to make individual women sacrifice liberties for women as a whole.

And where does solidarity end? If feminism is about equality or advancing women, then eventually individual women must be able to take the full fruits of those advances. If individual women are continually asked to sacrifice liberties for all of womenkind won't the burden be significantly higher than it is for men?

On the other hand, can you really call not flashing your breasts sacrificing? Is that really a valuable choice? Won't it universally turn out poorly?

On the other hand is even asking that, when we don't question men's judgement that way, tantamount to sexism?

So many muddled questions....

Sorry, that got rambly....

hdhouse said...

I'm not defending this creep at all so please don't take it that way. The CDC still puts the percentage of females who have had intercourse before age 18 at well over 40% and counting oral sex, the figure zooms and these numbers have been in the decline. Point being there are more than a few females at the prime for GGW who are not "immoral" but have some experience and perhaps a different mindset about all this.

Second, if an appearance in GGW is done to give someone a fleeting minute of fame - and its not - I would ascribe this jerk producer as just an exploiter of that rationale. His interest is the college and adolence adult male audience. what hoops he has to jump through to get girls to fill the DVD is just a fact of making the product to sell. It is this exploitation without compensation that makes or should make everyone crazy.

I don't think the majority of the girls who flash feel that either God or their parents (unlikely viewers) will strike them dead for that act and it is true that this creep hires a fair number of call girls and adult industry workers to get into the harder core sections of his work. What is true is this lowlife is a double exploiter...first the females who just sign the consent and swear they are 18 juxtaposed against the paid adult entertainers who act like naive girls and the equally jerky guys who buy this junk - he really exploits them to the tune of $20+ a DVD.

last he exploits society because this product is widely known and actually some people may feel reflective of the way things are.

He can't go to jail long enough.

Pogo said...

Re: " feel that either God or their parents (unlikely viewers) will strike them dead for that act..."

Instead of dying, imagine having that being your permanent legacy, a sort of DVD tattoo, of "who you were" at 18. You might wish you were dead.

Jennifer said...

Well, this is timely. Maybe I should stop calling him a rapist, and start calling him an alleged sexual batterer.

Re said...

Come on you bunch of Dumb Asses. All those Girls/women that showed thier breasts did it because THEY WANTED TO, AND LIKED DOING IT!!!! If you cant see that from the commercials than you're as blind as you are stupid! No body had a gun or anything else to those girls/womens heads. End of Story. Now leave the poor bastard alone! Oh yeah, and since when are a pair of breasts and a couple of nipples deemed disgusting and nasty? If that's the case then everyone should be bitching mad about it when they see men going topless and showing off thier breasts and nipples! For the ignorant out there, Yes men DO have the same breasts that women have and can grow them natually just as big by taking Estrogen pills! Look it up on the Internet if you don't believe me. Don't just go and ask one of your stupid friend's opinions about it and come to the retarded conclusion that I'm just Wrong about it.