By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES, Sept 11 U.S. casino owner Steve
Wynn won $20 million in punitive damages for defamation on
Tuesday, doubling his total judgment in a lawsuit accusing
"Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis of slandering him by
falsely claiming that Wynn had threatened his life over a
A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury deliberated for
about two hours before reaching its decision in the second phase
of a defamation trial that capped a protracted, high-stakes
legal feud between the two men.
On Monday, following a week-long trial that included
testimony from legendary music producer Quincy Jones, the same
jury awarded Wynn $20 million in damages for infliction of
emotional distress and injury to his reputation.
The jurors also found that Francis had acted with malice,
opening the door to additional damages intended as punishment.
The $20 million punitive sum was decided after a subsequent
round of testimony and arguments presented on Tuesday.
"There have been bigger defamation awards (but) I don't know
that there have been many," Mitchell Langberg, one of Wynn's
lawyers, said of the $40 million total.
Although both men took the witness stand last week, neither
was present in court for this week's verdicts.
In reaction to Tuesday's judgment, Francis posted a message
on his website saying he was "incredibly disappointed the jury
grossly misinterpreted the facts."
"I still maintain my life was endangered and I plan on
appealing this verdict," he said.
Wynn's victory comes on top of a $7.5 million judgment the
70-year-old Las Vegas mogul won against Francis, 39, in a
separate defamation case earlier this year. Wynn's company, Wynn
Resorts, was awarded more than $2 million in a 2008
lawsuit brought to collect money he claimed that Francis owed
The lawsuit decided on Monday accused Francis, founder of a
video series featuring college-age women exposing themselves for
the camera, often during alcohol-soaked parties, of publicly
stating on several occasions that Wynn wanted him killed with a
shovel and buried in the desert.
Wynn said the slanderous statement was first uttered in
April 2010 during a court hearing stemming from the disputed
gambling debt, and was repeated during a nationally televised
broadcast of ABC's "Good Morning America."
Wynn has maintained the accusation by Francis was fabricated
and posed a threat of undermining his business empire in a state
like Nevada, where the gambling industry is tightly regulated.
Francis claimed threatening emails about him from Wynn were
seen by others, including Jones, an acquaintance of both men.
But the music producer testified last week that he was unaware
of any verbal or written threats by Wynn against Francis.
Francis and his lawyers also have asserted that Wynn's
attorneys failed to present any evidence that the billionaire
hotel-casino magnate suffered any damage to his business.
The outcome gave Wynn a third legal victory in a prolonged
dispute with the "Girls Gone Wild" entrepreneur that grew out of
the debt Wynn claimed Francis had amassed during a multi-day
gambling spree in 2007.
A criminal case filed against Francis over his gambling
marker was dismissed. But a civil suit brought by the Wynn Las
Vegas casino to recover the debt ended with a summary judgment
against Francis for $2 million plus interest. The Nevada state
Supreme Court upheld that award on appeal.
Earlier this year, a Nevada state judge ordered Francis to
pay Wynn a $7.5 million judgment for a defamation suit in which
Wynn accused Francis of fabricating claims that the casino mogul
was cheating his high-end customers.