By Harriet Ryan and Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times –
LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday awarded casino mogul Steve Wynn $20 million after it found that he had been defamed by “Girls Gone Wild” creator Joe Francis.
Wynn had sued Francis over the latter’s claims that Wynn had threatened to have him killed and buried in the desert. Testifying last week, Wynn called the accusation a “terrible lie” that could potentially hurt his reputation and that of his eponymous company.
“He’s unrepentant, vicious, out of control,” Wynn said of Francis.
But since Wynn filed suit in 2010, Francis has maintained that the threat was real. He said music mogul Quincy Jones, his neighbor and a longtime friend of Wynn’s, told him that Wynn wanted Francis dead in an email.
In court, Jones said that Wynn never threatened to kill Francis, and that Jones had never told Francis that Wynn had.
Francis’ team has never produced the email; Wynn said that’s because it doesn’t exist.
The Wynn-Francis feud stretches over a number of years and multiple lawsuits. Francis attorney David Houston has suggested that their fraught history is what riled Wynn enough to threaten Francis.
Francis made the death-threat accusations while warring with Wynn over a roughly $2 million gambling debt Francis had racked up. Francis and Wynn also battled in court over Francis’ accusations that he was plied with prostitutes and drugs during his betting spree. (A Nevada judge sided with Wynn in a lawsuit over those claims.)
In questioning Wynn, Houston tried to prove that the mogul, considered a sort of elder statesman in the gaming industry, was capable of spouting off threats. Houston played part of an interview from the 1980s in which Wynn told TV reporter Meredith Vieira that he’d choke her if she didn’t include certain information in her report.
“I think you heard her laugh,” Wynn said.
“Or gasp,” Houston replied.