Jury adds $20M more to Wynn slander case damages
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A jury doubled its verdict against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis on Tuesday, ordering him to pay an additional $20 million in punitive damages to Steve Wynn for claiming the casino mogul threatened to kill him.
The decision came one day after the same nine men and three women awarded Wynn $20 million after determining that Francis' allegations slandered the designer of upscale casinos. Francis plans to appeal the verdicts.
The panel followed the suggestion of Wynn's attorney, Barry Langberg, who asked jurors to double their initial verdict, which was intended to compensate Wynn for damage to his reputation and casino empire.
In a statement released after Tuesday's verdict, Wynn called Francis a "digital assassin" and urged people to think before they post things online or speak ill of others.
"Thank God for the justice system that finally sent a message: If you think you're taking a cheap shot, it may be a lot more expensive than you had imagined," Wynn said.
Francis' attorney, Aaron Aftergood, argued that Wynn's side hadn't shown any evidence about his client's finances and they shouldn't deliver another large judgment. Francis did not provide financial records to Wynn's attorney, so estimates of his wealth were not presented to jurors.
Francis claimed record producer Quincy Jones told him that Wynn threatened to hit him in the back of the head with a shovel and have him buried in the desert amid a dispute over a gambling debt, but the Grammy winner testified no such statements were made.
"Today, I am incredibly disappointed the jury grossly misinterpreted the facts presented in the courtroom," Francis wrote in a statement. "I still maintain that my life was endangered and I plan on appealing this verdict. One day the public will see that I am the real victim here and not Steve Wynn."
Wynn is the CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and designed Las Vegas casinos such as The Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn and Encore.
He blasted Francis is his statement, saying the man who made millions by marketing videos featuring young women flashing their breasts is an "unbelievably reckless human being."
"His actions present a new challenge to society created by technology and the instantaneous news cycle," Wynn wrote. "The inflammatory information goes up instantly and stays forever, unchallenged and unproven, to the misery and detriment of any citizen that is a victim."
Langberg said he expects the massive judgment against Francis will persuade other attorneys to take similar cases.
Aftergood said he intends to file a motion for a new trial on the grounds that jurors were allowed to consider statements Francis made to a "Good Morning America" crew, but the panel was never shown the interview and heard little testimony about it. A judge allowed Wynn's attorneys to add the interview to the case after testimony had concluded and before jury deliberations began.
Jurors awarded Wynn $22 million for the interview comments.
Wynn has said he intends to donate the damages he received from the trial to charities.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)