Field Reports1 Jan, 2007 By: Thomas Haire, Courtney Beth Pugatch Response
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — On Dec. 13, Florida U.S. District Court judge sentenced Mantra Films Inc. and "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis — as well as the company's president, general counsel and chief financial officer — to eight hours each of community service per month for the next 30 months in addition to paying the $1.6 million in fines he agreed to in a plea deal that was announced on Sept. 12. Francis settled separate charges in a California U.S. District Court for $500,000, but faces possible additional sentencing in that case on Jan. 22.
U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak added the community service to the sentence because he did not believe that the fines would be a meaningful punishment. According to an Associated Press report, the $1.6 million fine represents less than 3 percent of Mantra's profits since 2002. "It does not take a very brave man to go out and corner a girl in the middle of spring break who had four drinks," Smoak told Francis, according to the AP.
Smoak added that Francis could remove his corporate officers from their community service obligations under the sentence by performing 16 hours per month himself during the next 30 months. Francis' attorney Aaron Dyer said he was unsure whether Francis would take that option, according to the AP.
Francis and his company, Mantra Films Inc., reached these settlements with the U.S. Justice Department in separate cases in California and Florida that resulted in a series of guilty pleas on Sept. 12 to charges of violating federal child sexual exploitation laws and federal record-keeping and labeling laws for sexually explicit materials. In a statement at the time, Francis admitted that footage of minors involved in sexual activities appears in at least two of the company's DVDs.
Francis avoided the possibility of a prison term by reaching these settlements. In a September statement, Francis said, "We regret that this occurred and will make sure that no other minors are used in 'Girls Gone Wild' films." When contacted by Response for this story, a spokesman for Francis offered no further comment.
FTC to Host Workshop on Broadband Connectivity Competition Policy
WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will host a two-day public workshop on broadband connectivity competition policy on Feb. 13-14. Scheduled for Washington, D.C., the workshop will feature experts from the government and businesses, as well as consumer advocates and academics to discuss and explore consumer protection and competition issues relating to broadband Internet access — including "network neutrality."
The workshop will explore issues raised recently by the belief that providers of broadband Internet services, such as DSL, are not subject to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) common-carrier regulations. To prevent harm to competition and consumers, some people have advocated network neutrality regulation that would require equal treatment of all Internet traffic.
This free event is open to the public and will be held at the FTC's satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Ave., N.W. For those who cannot make the event, a live Webcast will be available on the FTC's Web site. More information can be found at www.ftc.gov.