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Judge reduces what 'Girls Gone Wild' creator owes

The Associated Press, Monday, November 12, 2012, 11:57am (PST)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A judge has cut by more than half the $40 million jury verdict that casino mogul Steve Wynn was recently awarded against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell issued the ruling Friday cutting the award by $21 million. Her ruling eliminates $20 million in punitive damages the jury awarded Wynn and $1 million they said he deserved because of comments Francis made on "Good Morning America."

Francis' lawyers argued O'Donnell erred when she allowed jurors to consider the "Good Morning America" comments since they were not part of the initial case and the panel wasn't shown the interview at trials.

Francis vowed to appeal the remainder of the verdict.

"Judge O'Donnell committed a judicial error by allowing this case to even proceed to a trial and she knows it," Francis said. "This is only the first step of her back peddling and unwinding her illegal actions in order to try to keep her job as a judge."

The trial, which ended in September, centered on Francis' claims that he was told Wynn had threatened to hit him in the head with a shovel and have him buried in the desert. Wynn denied making the threats and claimed they damaged his reputation and put his casino license at risk.

Francis testified he heard about the claims from Grammy-winner Quincy Jones, who testified that no such statements were made.

Wynn's attorney Barry Langberg was not immediately available for comment.

O'Donnell's ruling states that the jury had no evidence to support awarding punitive damages in the case. "The jury's punitive damage award was speculative and clearly the result of the jury's dislike of the defendant and/or his businesses," the judge wrote.

Wynn is the CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd. and designed Las Vegas casinos such as The Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn and Encore. After the trial, Wynn called Francis a "digital assassin" and said he hoped the large verdict would discourage others from taking what he described as cheap shots.

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Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

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