Unfortunately, being the biggest prick in America isn’t something they can put you in jail for. But being a prick in a civil court case is.
A federal judge in Panama City, Fla., on Thursday ordered “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis jailed for contempt of court in a civil suit brought by seven young women who claimed the entrepreneur’s film crews had placed them in sexually explicit situations.
Francis, the Santa Monica-based multimillionaire who has made a fortune selling risque videos of scantily clad coeds, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak to surrender to court by noon Thursday, but hadn’t done so by mid-evening.
Francis told the Associated Press late Thursday that Smoak “had lost his mind.”
“This judge has gone as far as to call me the devil and an evildoer,” he said. “It is a case of a judge gone wild.”
Smoak originally found Francis, 34, in contempt last week after plaintiffs’ lawyers complained that Francis had shouted obscenities at their clients in a March 21 outburst during the settlement negotiations.
Smoak ordered Francis jailed if an accord had not been reached in the case by Saturday, but he suspended that order when it appeared that a deal had been struck.
At an emergency hearing Wednesday, a lawyer for the plaintiffs told the judge that he thought the case was resolved but then learned Francis had altered the offer, making it unacceptable to his clients.
A mediator said Francis insisted on a payment plan that would stretch several years.
“He may have snookered us and gotten out Saturday, but he’s coming back,” Smoak said.
The judge reinstated his civil contempt order, which means Francis could be jailed until a formal mediation session is set up and he participates in a “meaningful” way.