Meet Joe Francis….
Louise Livesey // 5 October 2007
Although I guess most of us would rather not. Joe Francis is the man who runs Girls Gone Wild. He’s been hit with a lawsuit by two young women who took part in sexual activity on camera for unlawful distribution of their
images. Joe Francis is, naturally, outraged – describing the claims as “crazy” and “frivolous”. Francis is no stranger to court cases and arrests on charges ranging from intimidation of complainants to tax fraud, there are also allegations of rape (of minor Claire Hoffman using alcohol and physical force to subdue her and of a different college student in 2004), sexual assault and conspiracy to use minors in sexual activity. Joe Francis claims he is just “misunderstood” and ” a regular guy”. Despite which he has created a website Meet Joe Francis to “set the record straight”.
But the suit is more complex than Francis makes out. Francis claims that evidence of the “girls” (his word, not mine), obviously drunk, giving verbal consent means that the allegations are nonsense. But the suit argues that Francis, and his crew, have working practices which include plying underage girls with alcohol to minimise their objections and lower their inhibitions to the activity. The suit also claims the young women were repeatedly reassured the footage would not be used. The suit goes on to detail that the young women got on the “bus” used as a filming location and were given alcohol in large quantities (illegally as the Florida drinking as is 21 years old) and they were then coerced into a number of acts whilst being told the footage wouldn’t be used.
Now here’s were some people would claim it’s “grey area”. They were drunk, could they consent or not. Well here’s my rule of thumb, if a hospital wouldn’t let them sign consent forms for surgery, they can’t consent and, having watched the video, no nurse in the world would let them sign consent forms for anything. Additionally we don’t see how the request for video taped consent was phrased or how they related it to the previous assurances the footage wouldn’t be used, but these young women are obviously “tired and emotional” and one of them in the footage alludes to being told that the Police she spots are there to “give them a ticket”, a suggestion the voice behind the camera givens assent to.
The next day the two complainants rung Girls Gone WIld and were again reassured the footage wouldn’t be used. On that basis they did not seek to recover the footage shot from the company.
Francis would claim consent on videotape, whether given freely or under intoxication (and most of the consents given are under intoxication in GGW’s work), is consent. I’m sure he’d disagree if it were him being maltreated – as, indeed, he did when he was kidnapped and forced into sexually humiliating pictures (in a subservient role with overtones of male rape). The perpetrator of the kidnapping is serving 10 years in prison. Joe Francis, meanwhile, is claiming to be the innocent entreprenuer and poor victim of the women suing him. Indeed on the website Francis vilifies the young women who have complained about him saying of one
For reasons nobody has offered a good explanation for, one of the women apparently told her parents what she had done.
(perhaps because, with nowhere else to turn the young woman, who was under the age of consent) would confide in those nearest and dearest to her) and claiming that activities of his staff should not be seen as his responsibility even when they are working (so if his staff break the law, he as head of the company shouldn’t be charged for their crimes). He also ridicules a journalist who broke one of the rape stories as unattractive and unintelligent and of coercing a woman accusing Francis of rape into making a Police report. Francis is currently serving prison time for contempt of court in a civil case where he threatened complainant in a mediation meeting.