US casino mogul Steve Wynn won $20 million in punitive damages for defamation on Tuesday, Reuters reports the latest American gambling news from Los Angeles. The tycoon accused “Girls Gone Wild” creator Joe Francis of falsely claiming that Wynn had threatened his life over a gambling debt.
After a week-long trial that even included testimony from music producer Quincy Jones, the jury awarded Wynn $20 million in damages for “infliction of emotional distress and injury to his reputation”. The jury also found Francis guilty of acting with malice, which resulted in him paying an additional $20 million punitive sum. Ouch.
“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 damage awarded by the jury.
Earlier this year, Francis was sentenced to pay Wynn a $7.5 million judgment in another defamation suit in Nevada, where Wynn accused Francis of making up claims that the casino owner cheated his high-roller guests. On top of that, Wynn’s company, Wynn Resorts, was awarded more than $2 million in a 2008 lawsuit in a case involving a debt Francis owed his establishment according to the American gambling laws.
Neither of the men was present in court for this week’s verdicts. “I still maintain my life was endangered and I plan on appealing this verdict” Francis commented on the case. Francis’ lawyers stated asserted that Wynn’s attorneys could not to present any evidence proving that the billionaire hotel-casino magnate suffered any damage to his business that include some of the best American poker rooms.
Francis founded of ”Girls Gone Wild”, a website and video series featuring college-age girls exposing themselves for the camera, often naked and often drunk. The jury found Francis guilty of publicly stating on several occasions that Wynn wanted him killed with a shovel and buried in the desert.