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Joe Francis seeks “Underage” lawsuit dismissal

from – PANAMA CITY — U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak was asked this week to decide whether a lawsuit against “Girls Gone Wild” founder Joe Francis should be thrown out.

Francis is scheduled for a January trial in federal court in Panama City on a lawsuit by four area girls who say they were 13 to 17 years old when filmed by “Girls Gone Wild” in stages of undress or engaged in sexual activity.

Tallahassee attorney Rick Batemen provided a chart in his motion for summary judgment, detailing the dates of the alleged offenses compared to when the lawsuit was filed. He wrote that with the suit being filed March 20, 2008, only one count of one girl’s claim would have fit within the statute of limitations for the offenses claimed.

Some of the counts, Bateman wrote, would have expired in 2004 and 2005 because the alleged incidents happened in 2000.

Bateman acknowledged that the final count, which stemmed from an incident on March 31, 2003, that led to criminal charges against Francis that he resolved last year, would fit within the statute of limitations. He argued that, too, should be thrown out because the plaintiff doesn’t claim damages specific to that offense that meet the $75,000 minimum for a federal lawsuit.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Rachel Pontikes of Chicago wrote in her response that Bateman was wasting everyone’s time by filing a motion that misrepresented facts and the law.

“Defendants filmed (one girl) engaged in sexually explicit conduct with a minor and then distributed the child pornography they created worldwide,” she wrote. “Defendants know it. Plaintiffs know it and this court knows it. If anything, the record demonstrates that this court should grant (plaintiff) B summary judgment because she is clearly engaged in sexually explicit conduct in the footage.”

Both sides filed lengthy and detailed arguments this week supporting their sides.

Smoak was put on notice Thursday that he needed to decide the issue.


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