'Girls Gone Wild' founder loses in Nev. high court

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis thought he'd beaten the house out of a $2 million gambling debt, but the Nevada Supreme Court says he'll have to pay anyway.

Francis faced separate criminal and civil cases stemming from claims he borrowed the money with casino credit in May 2007 and didn't pay it back. He was cleared of criminal wrongdoing three weeks ago, but the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a civil ruling that ordered him to pay the money.

Nevada Supreme Court spokesman Bill Gang told The Associated Press on Friday that the civil ruling stands despite the criminal exoneration by a Las Vegas judge last month. Gang says civil and criminal cases have different standards of proof.

Francis did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. His lawyer, David Houston, said he was "extremely disappointed" in the ruling, and that Francis is considering challenging the ruling further to an appellate court.

Houston said he thinks the ruling has implications for other cases where civil and criminal trials run at the same time.

A spokeswoman for the casino declined comment.

Francis spent several hours invoking his Fifth Amendment rights during questioning from Wynn lawyers, even on questions like whether he was married or lived with anyone in his home, the ruling said.

"Do you have a father?" one of Wynn's lawyers asked during the deposition, according to a transcript provided in the Thursday ruling.

"I think everyone has a father. Yes," Francis responded, according to the transcript.

"OK, is he living?" the lawyer asked.

"Right to remain silent," Francis said.

Houston said that because of a likely miscommunication, Francis believed he had to invoke the Fifth Amendment rights across the board to avoid being accused of picking and choosing questions to not answer.

The civil ruling came three weeks after a district court judge in Las Vegas threw out a case charging the soft-porn mogul criminally with theft and passing a bad check. The judge in that case ruled that Wynn waited too long to redeem the casino marker, or IOU, that was used to grant Francis casino credit.

Casino markers in Nevada are treated as bad checks.

After the criminal dismissal, Francis proclaimed victory in a news release and told the AP that he wanted to go after the casino and its billionaire chief executive, Steve Wynn, for false prosecution.

"They did stuff that if you or I did it, we'd be in jail," Francis said in an interview. "They manipulated the entire process."

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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