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State: Girls Gone Wild Filmed at Least 35 Minors in Panhandle
The Associated Press
Published: Sep 4, 2003
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) - The "Girls Gone Wild" staff filmed at least 35 girls exposing themselves during spring break in the Panama City Beach area, prosecutors said.
State Attorney Jim Appleman also said during a hearing Wednesday that additional charges are possible against the producer of the videos, who was arrested in April on racketeering and drug charges after parents complained to police he told underage girls to say on camera that they were 18.
If convicted of all charges, producer Joe Francis could face 30 years in prison.
"We'll be able to prove our case," Appleman said during the hearing before Circuit Judge Michael Overstreet. Francis has maintained his innocence.
The video series that Francis created has made millions by filming college-age women revealing their breasts at parties and spring break sites.
Appleman said he is leery of turning over to the defense the tapes, which include the alleged minors performing sex acts, because it would be illegal for him to give contraband to anyone.
Defense attorney Jimmy Judkins argued that the tapes "contain a wealth of evidence that will exculpate Mr. Francis and will disprove the government allegation that Mantra Entertainment is a criminal enterprise."
Another defense attorney, Aaron Dyer of Los Angeles, asked that all "flashing" scenes on the tapes be declared legal.
"It doesn't become child pornography when you're just dealing with nudity," Dyer said.
Overstreet rejected Appleman's argument, but will allow him to argue that the tapes are more obscene than similar materials accessible through retail outlets or online at a future hearing.
Francis' company, Mantra Films Inc., has disputed the charges, saying its crews always ask young women their age and film only those who say they are 18 or older.
The charges are based largely on about 175 hours of tapes Bay County sheriff's deputies seized during a raid at a condominium rented by the "Girls Gone Wild" staff.
Information from: The News Herald, http://www.newsherald.com