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

October 7, 2011 - 4:45 PM

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.

The Silver State's top court ruled Thursday that a lower court was right to grant summary judgment favoring the Wynn Las Vegas casino because Francis abused his constitutional rights by refusing to answer even simple questions during a deposition.

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

Francis and his lawyer did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment. A spokeswoman for the casino declined comment.

The ruling said the lower court was right to deny Francis' motions to delay the case and take back his repeated invocation of the Fifth Amendment while being questioned by the Wynn's lawyers about the May 2007 debt.

Francis spent several hours invoking the right, 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.

The ruling said the lower court was right in granting summary judgment in favor of Wynn, saying Francis abused his privileges and didn't produce any material facts to support his claims that he didn't owe the money.

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