The Girls Gone Wild founder is taken into custody in Florida for contempt of court

By Jeff Truesdell
April 10, 2007 09:55 AM

Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis was arrested Tuesday in Florida, PEOPLE has confirmed.

The U.S. Marshal’s Office in Panama City, Fla., tells PEOPLE that Francis, 34, was arrested at 6:30 a.m. at the Panama City airport on a warrant seeking his arrest for criminal contempt of court.

He is currently being held at the Bay County jail, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshal’s Office says.

Although Francis told FOX News’s Geraldo Rivera on Monday that he would surrender to authorities, the arrest was carried out by airport police who recognized him before he could present himself to the Marshal’s Office.

A judge ordered Francis’s arrest last week after Francis reportedly changed the terms of a settlement deal stemming from a 2003 lawsuit in which seven women accused him of victimizing them by filming them in sexual situations while they were on spring break in Panama City.

Francis was ordered by U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak to surrender to authorities in Panama City by noon Thursday to begin serving jail time for contempt of court, the city’s News Herald reported. But sources told PEOPLE that Francis missed the deadline.

According to the News Herald, Francis told Rivera on Monday: “I’m not trying to hide at all. I’m on my way to Florida right now to turn myself in and comply with the judge’s order. I would never run from justice.”

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