Las Vegas-based casino mogul Steve Wynn won his lawsuit against adult video producer Joe Francis on Sep. 10. The jury in the case, in which Wynn sued Francis for defamation after the “Girls Gone Wild” founder claimed in interviews that Wynn had threatened to murder him over a gambling debt, awarded Wynn $20 million in actual and punitive damages. Francis vowed to appeal the verdict, saying that the judge should not have allowed evidence of an interview he gave on national television to be presented to the jury.
Back on April 24, we reported that Wynn had sued Francis for failure to pay a $2 million gambling debt Francis accrued at the Wynn Las Vegas. Wynn prevailed in that lawsuit in October 2011, though it is not clear whether Francis has paid the verdict.
Meanwhile, Francis went to court seeking an order of protection against Wynn. At a hearing, he said that Wynn threatened to hit Francis on the head with a shovel and bury him in the desert. He claimed that his neighbor, music producer Quincy Jones, showed him emails containing the threats. Francis confirmed his account in an interview shortly after the hearing, and again on “Good Morning America.”
Wynn denied making the threats. During the defamation trial, his attorneys argued that there is no evidence the emails existed and brought several witnesses to support that account. Jones denied hearing or reading any threats made by Wynn against Francis. Wynn’s team argued that Francis made up the accusations in order to damage the casino owner’s reputation.
The jury agreed. They awarded Wynn $12 million in actual damages and $8 million in punitive damages. However, Francis said that since the “GMA” interview took place after the trial began, it should not have been introduced into evidence. He said he will appeal based on that argument.
Source: Las Vegas Sun, “Jury awards Wynn $20 million in slander case,” Anthony McCartney, Sep. 10, 2012
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