EXCLUSIVE: Joe Francis Tax Evasion Case Ordered To Trial

Aug. 17 2009, Published 10:08 a.m. ET

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The federal government's tax-evasion trial against Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis will go to trial despite prosecutors' failure to provide Francis' legal defense team with required discovery information in a timely manner, can exclusively report.

Francis, 36, continued his fight Monday against two counts of felony tax evasion, for tax years 2002 and 2003.

"I am thoroughly convinced the government's conduct (in not providing Francis' attorneys with copies of more than 6,000 emails sent between Francis and his former accountant Michael Barrett) was not willful," U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero said in Los Angleles federal court.

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"This case requires a trial," Otero added. "The defendant has asked for dismissal, but dismissal is not in order."

Defense attorney Brad Brian argued that Barrett - who worked for Francis for more than two years - was "an enemy" of Francis who might be "motivated financially" to testify against Francis.

"I think the witness (Barrett) buddied-up with the government," Brian added.

Judge Otero agreed: "It's pretty clear Mr. Barrett despises Mr. Francis. That should have put the government (prosecutors) on alert" as to Barrett's real motive to be a key witness against Francis.

Otero spent much of the hearing admonishing prosecutors. He said the feds "had more than two years to provide" Francis' legal team with copies of their exchanged emails.  He wants it done pronto!

Otero set a pre-trial hearing for Oct. 6. He set the trial to begin Oct. 14.



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