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‘Girls’ founder says he’s innocent

Times Staff Writer

When Joe Francis or his people bring cameras to a hotel room, they’re usually the ones doing the filming.

But reemerging in California Thursday after nearly a year behind bars, the “Girls Gone Wild” founder was the one before the cameras, for a news conference he billed as “Joe Francis Returns to L.A.”

Despite pleading no contest Wednesday in Florida to child abuse and prostitution charges, Francis said he was “100% innocent of those charges.”

“I was being held illegally without bail,” he told about two dozen reporters at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “I chose to take [the plea deal] simply to get out of jail, not because I committed any crime.”

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Francis’ plea resolved a 2003 Panama City, Fla., case involving the filming by a contract cameraman of two 17-year-old girls in the shower. The judge released him on time served and fines.

Francis said law enforcement officials in Panama City made him out to be “scum-sucking trash.” “We wouldn’t have been there in the first place if girls weren’t getting naked in the first place,” he said.

Asked if his time in jail provided opportunity for introspection, Francis said: “There’s a certain hyper-focus that comes with being locked in a cage. There were things I did wrong, things I’m going to do better.”

Francis is still facing federal charges in Nevada, where a Reno grand jury indicted him on two counts of tax evasion.

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Additionally, a 2007 L.A. case charging Francis with misdemeanor sexual battery for allegedly touching a woman inappropriately at a party has not been resolved.

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com


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