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'Girls gone wild' founder enters plea

By Owen Weldon     Mar 12, 2008 in Entertainment
Joe Francis, who founded the 'Girls Gone Wild' video empire, pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges on Wednesday under an agreement that allowed him to go free after nearly a year in jail.
This week, Francis posted over a $1 million bond in Nevada and now he awaits trial for tax fraud. Francis resolved his 2003 criminal case involving the filming of underaged girls during spring break on Panama City Beach..
Francis, 34, says he has never committed a crime and he said that he pleaded guilty just so he could get out of jail and he tells a source that a few corrupt individuals were able to keep an innocent man in jail for 11 months.
Francis is reportedly earning more than $25 million a year from videos of young women in sexually provocative situations.
He also pleaded no contest to two child abuse counts on behalf of his company Mantra Films and he pleaded to an additional count of felony child abuse and two counts of misdemeanor prostitution.
Francis is kind of lucky considering that those charges were all that remained out of an original 73-count indictment brought after Bay County law officers raided Francis' hotel rooms and corporate jet in 2003.
On Wednesday, Francis was sentenced to 339 days in jail but he has already served that time in Florida and Nevada and he was also ordered to pay more than $60,000 in fines, court costs and restitution to the county.
In addition Francis agreed that he will not film between Escambia and Jackson Counties in Florida for the next three years.
Back in 2003 Francis believed the women he was filming were over 18 because they signed agreements stating they were legal age but under Florida law it does not matter because he still committed a crime.
Lawyers for the women claim that Francis verbally abused them and threaten them during closed-door negotiations.
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