PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The "Girls Gone Wild" video empire agreed to pay $1.6 million and its founder was sentenced to community service Wednesday for filming drunken, underage girls in the raunchy videos.
Mantra Films Inc. pleaded guilty in a case that stemmed from its use of two 17-year-olds in its DVDs and videos, which feature young women baring their breasts in public. The videos at issue were filmed on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003.
U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak ordered Mantra's multimillionaire founder, Joe Francis, to read aloud in court a victim impact statement from one of the women, who said she was emotionally tormented by her appearance on a "Girls Gone Wild" video and that the video damaged her relationship with her family.
Smoak told Francis he added the community service because it did not appear a fine would be a meaningful punishment.
The fine represents less than 3 percent of Mantra's profits since 2002 and only 12 percent of Mantra's 2005 profits, Smoak said.
"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.
Francis, 33, said his policy has always been not to film girls under 18 and that the two filmed in Panama City lied about their ages. He later left court without speaking to reporters.
According to court papers, Mantra Films, based in Santa Monica, Calif., admitted violating record-keeping and labeling laws while distributing videos during all of 2002 and part of 2003.
The judge ordered Francis, his company president, general counsel and chief financial officer to each perform eight hours of community service monthly for the next 30 months. But Smoak said the corporate officers could avoid the obligation, giving Francis the option of "stepping up" and serving 16 hours a month of community service by himself in their place.
Attorney Aaron Dyer, representing Francis and the company, said he did not know if Francis would take on the entire sentence himself.
Smoak ordered the company to issue a press release about its federal offenses and to publish the release in the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and The News Herald of Panama City.
Francis also faces a Jan. 22 sentencing hearing in federal court in Los Angeles on similar charges in which he has agreed to pay $500,000 in fines.
Also pending against Francis are state felony charges in which he is accused of using children in sexual performances. Those counts stem from the same 2003 filming at the heart of Wednesday's pleas.