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Joe Francis Sentenced to Jail for Contempt

Joe Francis Sentenced to Jail for Contempt
Frederick M. Brown/Getty

04/23/2007 07:00PM

A tearful of Joe Francis, founder of the Girls Gone Wild video empire, pleaded guilty to contempt of court Monday and was sentenced to 35 days in a Florida jail.

"Joe has changed in the past few months," says his attorney, Jan Handzlik. "He has changed from someone who was disdainful of the system to someone who recognizes that he has to play by the same rules as the rest of us. He has put a lot of his foolish behavior behind him."

Francis, 34, was charged with contempt after he allegedly lost his temper and yelled obscenities during negotiations to settle a lawsuit filed by seven women who were minors when they were filmed at Panama City Beach for a racy video.

U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak in Panama City, Fla., ordered Francis to settle or face a contempt charge. After talks collapsed, Francis berated Smoak in the media, calling him a "judge gone wild."

The judge ordered Francis to surrender April 5 to begin serving jail time for contempt, but he never showed. He instead arrived in Florida five days later and was arrested at the airport.

"I am sorry for my behavior. It was wrong," Francis said in court, according to the Associated Press. "I had heard about appeals and things and I was confused. I am sorry, I really am."

Francis, who claimed the women suing him had lied about their ages, has since reached a settlement.

The contempt plea does not end his legal problems. A federal grand jury in Reno has also indicted Francis on charges of tax evasion.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STEVE HELLING

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