Tags: US | Girls | Gone | Wild | Bribes

Judge in Reno Won't Stop 'Girls Gone Wild' Trial

Wednesday, 27 Jan 2010 10:49 PM

 

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Charges against a former Nevada sheriff's deputy accused of accepting gifts in exchange for giving preferential treatment to the jailed creator of the "Girls Gone Wild" videos won't be dismissed, a federal judge said Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks denied a motion from the lawyer defending former Washoe County jail Sgt. Michon Mills, who served as a liaison between Joe Francis' lawyers and the jail in Reno while he was held on tax charges from June 2007 to March 2008. Francis is the founder of "Girls Gone Wild."

The bribery trial is expected to continue Thursday and into Friday.

A Hollywood associate of Francis has pleaded guilty to a related misdemeanor charge and admitted he provided Mills with a $4,500 Cartier watch and a $5,000 Saks Fifth Avenue gift card.

But the associate, Aaron Weinstein, testified that Mills never considered the gifts a bribe and eventually gave back the unused gift card and unworn watch.

Two other former deputies also have pleaded guilty to accepting a gratuity as a public official, including one who received $3,200 in cash and four tickets to an Oakland Raiders game in exchange for bringing Francis sushi on two occasions.

Francis, whose videos feature women exposing themselves on camera, was sentenced in November to time served and one year of probation related to tax evasion counts and bribing jail workers.

The charge against Mills should be dismissed partly because Weinstein testified that the gift card was a personal birthday present and the watch was a Christmas gift, Leah Wigren, Mills' lawyer, told the judge on Wednesday.

Weinstein said he never indicated Mills was expected to give Francis special privileges. He said Mills was surprised when he gave them to her, and indicated they were not necessary.

"The government has not shown that she as a public official — or in carrying our her public duties — got a gratuity for, or because, of an official act," Wigren said.

Hicks said that would be up to the jury to decide.

Mills, 39, Carson City, had been assigned to be the point of contact with Francis after he was placed in the mental health housing unit of the jail. Prosecutors said that while he was there, Francis was allowed to run his multimillion dollar pornography business that includes selling videos of nude college girls in sexual situations.

Deputy Heather Balaam testified earlier this week that Mills treated Francis better than other inmates. She said Mills also brought Francis magazines, and insisted she be told every time he was disciplined. She also said other inmates in Francis' unit complained that he talked very loud on the phone all day and night.

Other deputies described Francis on Wednesday as "troublesome" and "high maintenance."

Assistant Sheriff Lisa Haney said Francis was held in the special unit where inmates are treated differently in part to keep peace at the jail because "he had money" and "there might have been some inmates who hit him up for money."

Sgt. Ty Lariviere said Mills served as the liaison "due to the high volume of calls and high maintenance of his legal defense team."

"Mr. Francis was extremely manipulative, very demanding. He would not have fit well in the general population housing unit," Lariviere testified Wednesday.

"In addition, being such a high profile inmate, there is greater risk for an inmate on the way to prison to harm Mr. Francis in order to make a name for himself," he said.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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