Reno Judge rejects bail for ‘Girls Gone Wild’ founder | NevadaAppeal.com
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Reno Judge rejects bail for ‘Girls Gone Wild’ founder

SANDRA CHEREB
Associated Press Writer

RENO” A federal judge has rejected a motion by “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis that would have allowed his release from a Nevada jail without fear of being sent to Florida, where he faces charges related to filming underage girls.

U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval, in a ruling filed late Wednesday, denied arguments by Francis’ lawyers, who claimed a previous ruling by a federal judge in Florida gave the Nevada court jurisdiction over Francis until after he is tried on tax evasion charges here.

The lawyers argue that his continued detention has made it impossible for Francis to help them prepare for his trial on the tax charges.

Francis, 34, has amassed a fortune marketing videos of young women, posing bare-breasted and in other provocative poses.

He has been jailed on both sides of the country for nearly year, caught in a legal tug-of-war between federal prosecutors in Nevada and state attorneys in Florida, who have a no-bail warrant for his arrest related to the filming of underage girls during spring break in 2003.

In a hearing last week in Reno, defense lawyer Fred Atcheson said Francis can meet all but one bail condition set earlier by the federal court ” resolving the bail issue out of Panama City, Fla. The no-bail arrest warrant means Francis could be picked up and returned to Florida if he were freed from jail in Nevada.

But Atcheson argued that a ruling last year from U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak in Florida essentially gave Nevada priority in the legal pecking order, and that Sandoval could ensure his continued jurisdiction over the racy filmmaker by limiting Francis’ travels to within Nevada.

Sandoval disagreed.

“It appears that in Francis’ view the requirement that he resolve the bond situation is something different from a requirement that he actually secure release on bond,” Sandoval wrote.

The judge also dismissed Francis’ claims that Smoak’s order precludes Florida from “interfering with the exercise of federal authority,” calling that argument “misplaced.”

Francis’ legal troubles began five years ago in Panama City, where he still faces four felony and two misdemeanor charges ” all that remain from an initial 73-count indictment stemming from the 2003 spring break filming.

His lawyers contend the underage women lied about their ages to an independent camera operator, and that none of the footage was used.

Panama City prosecutors revoked his bail in that case and have refused to reconsider the decision.

Francis has been jailed since last April, when Smoak sentenced him to 35 days in jail for contempt stemming from an outburst during court-ordered mediation in a civil suit, also related to the Florida filming.

While in jail on contempt, he was charged with having contraband ” $700 and prescribed anti-anxiety medication ” which prosecutors in Panama City cited as cause to revoke his bond in the criminal case.

After Francis completed his contempt sentence, Smoak ordered the filmmaker extradited to Nevada to face the federal tax charges over the objections of Florida prosecutors.

A federal grand jury in Reno last April indicted Francis and his companies, Mantra Films Inc. and Sands Media Inc., on tax fraud charges.

The government alleges the companies claimed more than $20 million in phony deductions in 2002 and 2003, and that Francis used offshore accounts to conceal income.

That trial is set for August. If convicted, Francis could face up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.