'Gone Wild' creator charged with sexual battery

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"Girls Gone Wild" creator Joseph Francis was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor sexual battery for allegedly groping an 18-year-old girl.

Francis, who was jailed in Florida two weeks ago for criminal contempt and was indicted in Nevada this month for federal tax evasion, allegedly touched the woman's breast and buttocks repeatedly despite pleas to stop, city attorney spokesman Frank Mateljan said.

The alleged incident occurred during a Jan. 10 birthday party at the Geisha House in Hollywood, he said. The victim, whose name wasn't disclosed, filed a police report and prosecutors filed the sexual battery count Wednesday against the 34-year-old entrepreneur.

Arraignment was set for May 22 at the Hollywood courthouse but Francis isn't required to appear. If convicted, Francis could be sentenced to six months in jail and fined $2,000, Mateljan said.

"When it rains it pours. The timing of this is not coincidental. The incident on which this is based is over three months old. This is undoubtedly designed to take advantage of Joe's other legal problems," said Los Angeles attorney Jan Handzlik, who has been representing Francis in Florida.

Francis publicist Barry Roesler in New York said there was no immediate comment.

On April 11, a federal grand jury in Reno, Nev., indicted Francis on charges that his companies -- which sell videos of topless young women -- claimed millions of dollars in false business expenses. A day earlier, Francis was jailed in Florida for criminal contempt.

The Nevada indictment alleged Francis' Mantra Films Inc. and its marketing arm Sands Media Inc., claimed more than $20 million in false deductions on the companies' 2002 and 2003 corporate income tax returns, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

The indictment also charges that Francis used offshore bank accounts and entities purportedly owned by others to conceal income he earned during the same time.

Francis was ordered to appear May 22 before U.S. Magistrate Robert A. McQuaid in Reno. If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

Francis makes an estimated $29 million a year from videos of young women exposing their breasts and being shown in other sexually provocative situations.

He drew the Florida contempt citation during negotiations in a Florida civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underage when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003. He's scheduled for release May 13, but other allegations there are pending.


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