Nevada Hearing Delayed For 'Girls Gone Wild' Founder

A federal court hearing on motions by "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis to postpone his trial on tax evasion charges and be released from jail without facing extradition to Florida in a separate case has been delayed, his lawyer said Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval will consider both requests during a hearing now set for Feb. 29, attorney Fred Atcheson said.

Francis, 34, has been jailed since April, when a federal judge in Florida sentenced him to 35 days in jail for contempt of court stemming from an outburst during a court-ordered mediation in a civil suit.

While behind bars there, a federal grand jury in Reno indicted him and his companies, Mantra Films Inc. and Sands Media Inc., on tax fraud charges.

The government alleges, among other things, that the companies claimed more than $20 million in phony deductions in 2002 and 2003, and that Francis used offshore accounts to conceal income.

If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Francis reportedly makes tens of millions of dollars annually marketing his "Girls Gone Wild" videos that showcase rowdy women flashing bare breasts and in other sexually provocative poses.

His legal woes began in 2003, when prosecutors in Bay County, Fla., obtained a 73-count indictment associated with the filming of underage girls during spring break.

All but four felonies and two misdemeanor charges have since been dismissed.

His general counsel, Michael Burke, said the underage women lied about their ages to an independent camera operator, and that none of the footage was used.

But Francis' bond in the nearly five-year old criminal case was revoked after he was charged with having contraband - $700 and prescription anti-anxiety medication - in the Bay County jail while serving time for contempt.

After that, U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak, over the objections of Florida prosecutors, ordered Francis extradited to Nevada to face the federal tax charges.

A judge here set conditions for bail, including one that Francis "resolve" the no bond detainer out of Florida.

Florida prosecutors have refused to allow bail, so Francis has remained jailed in Reno.

His lawyers in Nevada argue that his continued detention has made it impossible for Francis to help them prepare for his trial on the tax charges.

They are asking a judge to continue the trial, currently set to begin April 29, until August.


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