'Girls Gone Wild' creator charged with assault

LOS ANGELES (AP) -August 23, 2011

The charges filed against Francis and his bodyguard stem from an alleged January altercation that began when three women got into his limousine outside a popular nightspot. Prosecutors claim the women thought they were being driven to their car but were taken to Francis' gated home, where a struggle ensued and he allegedly slammed one woman's head on a tile floor.

He faces to five years in jail if convicted, but Francis said in a phone interview Tuesday that he is innocent.

He said he has eight eyewitnesses who will testify on his behalf and security footage from three cameras.

"This did not happen," he said.

He claimed that police and the district attorney's office rejected filing charges against him, but that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is pursuing the case for political reasons.

District Attorney's spokeswoman Jane Robison said county prosecutors declined to file felony charges against Francis in late July, but referred the case to Trutanich's office for possible misdemeanor charges.

Francis said Trutanich is trying to prosecute him because the city attorney is considering a run for higher office, a claim that spokesman Frank Mateljan denies. "We filed charges based on the facts in the police report and nothing else," he said.

Trutanich has not yet announced whether he will run for district attorney, but his name has been floated as a possible candidate.

"He is dead in the water," Francis said. "He is going to get embarrassed."

Francis' friend, Mark Rousso, said he was in the limo with the women, and that two of them started fighting with each other on the way to Francis' home.

"It was the other way around," Rousso said. "Joe was trying to stop it."

Another woman, Madi Matichak, said she first met Francis at the club on the night of the incident and that the soft-porn mogul was upstairs when the girls resumed their fight in the driveway of his home.

Francis' bodyguard, Vagram Gegdzhyan, had offered to give them a ride home but called them a cab after one of the women hit him, Matichak said.

Both Francis and Gegdzhyan turned themselves in to police on Monday and were freed on bail. They were scheduled to appear for an arraignment on Sept. 16.

Gegdzhyan, who is also accused of impersonating a peace officer after allegedly flashing a sheriff's deputy's badge in the limo, could be jailed for up to six years if convicted.

In 2008, Francis pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution charges in Florida after spending nearly a year in jail. He later won a civil case filed by women who claimed he had caused them emotional distress by making them flash their breasts for some of his "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

The following year he was sentenced to time served and a year of probation after pleading guilty to filing false income tax returns and bribing Nevada jail workers.

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