Joe Francis a "digital assassin"? Steve Wynn a "bully"?
The battle raged on between the pair Tuesday as a civil court ordered Francis to pay Wynn $20 million in punitive damages—in addition to the $20 million in compensatory damages the Girls Gone Wild founder was tabbed with yesterday—for slandering the hotel magnate.
Wynn, who sued Francis for defamation in 2010 as a result of the X-rated video purveyor claiming that Wynn threatened to have him killed and buried in the desert over a $2 million gambling debt, has said he'll be donating the money to charity.
But Francis, who's no stranger to the inside of a courtroom, has vowed to appeal the judgment—and the possibility that he may have to cut Wynn an eight-figure check hasn't convinced him that it's time to shut up.
Francis had claimed that Quincy Jones told him that Wynn had threatened to kill him, a claim Jones denied while testifying last week.
"The alleged 'defamation' was a result of my request in a courtroom for a restraining order against Steve Wynn," Francis said in a written statement to E! News. "I made this request because I was afraid for my life."
"Strictly from a legal standpoint, I believe the jury should have found in my favor for numerous reasons," Francis continued, switching gears a bit. "Besides THE FACT THAT I AM THE ONLY ONE TELLING THE TRUTH, after the alleged 'defamation' of Steve Wynn his net worth has gone up 500-million-dollars during the worst economy in history. How could Steve Wynn be financially damaged by the alleged defamatory statements? He also failed to show exactly how he was financially damaged to the jury to win this case...No one would seek court protection if they had to fear...getting sued for millions of dollars by a bully like Steve Wynn."
And the fightin' words didn't end there.
Calling Francis a "digital assassin," Wynn released to a statement to E! News claiming that Francis "takes advantage of the protection afforded by the internet to issue intentionally destructive charges against someone's reputation, knowing full well that in the age of the internet those statements will live forever.
"His actions present a new challenge to society created by technology and the instantaneous news cycle. The inflammatory information goes up instantly and stays forever, unchallenged and unproven, to the misery and detriment of any citizen that is a victim. The only remedy is a long road, an expensive road, to a trial before 12 fellow citizens. Most citizens don't have the time or the resources to defend themselves and find the truth in a courtroom before a jury of their peers.
"In this case," Wynn continued, "with this unbelievably reckless human being, Joe Francis, I am a surrogate, a stand in, for all the people with any reputation or in any business, or even just a private citizen, who can be wildly attacked.
"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. Therefore, think before you post; think before you speak; hesitate before you start to destroy someone's character. There may be a day of reckoning. "
Francis first testified about Wynn supposedly threatening to kill him during a hearing in 2010 pertaining to his debt, for which he was sued by Wynn hotel officials in 2008, and then repeated the allegations to TMZ and other media outlets.
"He told lies. He used the media to get it out there," Wynn attorney Barry Langberg told the Los Angeles Times after court yesterday. "Steve Wynn didn't know who Joe Francis was, had never met him, until he started making these comments."
On Nov. 12, 2012, Judge Joanne O'Donnell overturned $21 million in damages awarded to Wynn at trial, ruling that "there was no evidence [the casino mogul] suffered any 'shame, mortification or hurt feelings'" as a result of watching a Good Morning America interview Francis gave or even that Wynn even knew of the interview.
"Judge Joanne O'Donnell should have never allowed as evidence my in-court statement that Steve Wynn threatened my life, because it was made in a courtroom while seeking a restraining order against Steve Wynn and therefore, a judicially privileged statement," the porn purveyor said in a statement.
Francis vowed to aggressively appeal the remaining portion of the jury verdict totaling $19 million.
—Reporting by Claudia Rosenbaum
(Originally published Sept. 11, 2012, at 7:30 p.m. PT)