September 24, 2009 6:55 PM
Joe Francis Really Loves His Lawyers from Munger Tolles
Posted by Brian Baxter
Despite our best efforts to quit the ongoing Joe Francis legal saga, we keep getting sucked back in. (Just like those late night infomercials for his Girls Gone Wild videos.)
The eccentric entrepreneur shook up his legal team a few months back, hoping to resolve lingering federal tax charges that spanned two states and several years.
On Wednesday, Francis and his new lawyers from Munger, Tolles & Olson submitted a plea agreement they reached with prosecutors. If approved by U.S. district court judge S. James Otero in Los Angeles, Francis will receive credit for time served and pay $250,000 in restitution.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Francis has spent 301 days in jail since a grand jury indicted him on tax evasion charges in 2007. Francis was facing up to four years in prison and $450,000 in fines for not reporting $562,883 in interest income on his 2003 tax return.
But prosecutors--who claimed that Francis had made up to $20 million in fraudulent deductions for an estate in Mexico and other extravagances--saw one of their key witnesses blow up a few weeks ago when e-mails turned over during discovery led Francis to sue several former employees at his production company Manta Films.
Munger Tolles took over the case in March, a month after Francis skipped a hearing and Judge Otero issued a bench warrant for his arrest. After entering pleas to two misdemeanor counts of filing a false tax return and one count of bribing jail workers in Nevada (where Francis was incarcerated for a time), the soft-porn playboy now may win his get-out-of-jail-free card.
"The judge took [the plea] and while we have a binding agreement on sentencing, the judge set the sentencing for November 6," says lead Munger partner Brad Brian.
But Brian isn't ready to proclaim victory. Before the November hearing, Otero will likely review a presentence report to decide whether or not to accept the deal. If he does, Francis will serve one year of supervised release and pay restitution.
We couldn't help asking Brian if he celebrated the proposed plea with Francis last night given this story by LA Weekly, which reports Francis screaming "I have good guys!" while hugging Brian and Nevada counsel David Houston. (Brian laughed off our query.)
The tabloid reports that when Francis left the courthouse after the agreement was announced, someone asked whether he would be going to Disneyland to celebrate. Not quite.
"No, probably a corporate retreat in Mexico," LA Weekly reports Francis saying. Then he listed some of his more pressing engagements: "I'm hosting a bachelor party for Lamar Odom tomorrow night at Les Deux, then Sunday I've got a wedding--whoa! I told the judge I wouldn't go to any nightclubs. Take me back in for perjury!"
Francis has reason to be happy. As part of the plea deal, all felony counts against Francis will be dropped. And he can return to the party.
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