Today saw considerably more media in Department 880 of the Roybal Federal Building than on Monday morning. That was when Judge James Otero had been set to rule on a request by Bob Bernhoft's law firm to withdraw from Case No. 08 CR 494 SJO. The trial Bernhoft and partner Bob Barnes wished to be cut loose from was the $20 million tax-fraud case against Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis. Not only was Monday's gallery nearly empty of press and spectators, the room was missing Joe Francis. After some attempts to reach Francis on his cell phone, the judge signed a bench warrant that came in handy when Francis drifted in five hours later — he was arrested and wound up getting tucked into a jail bunk that evening.
So Francis didn't have far to travel to return to court today. Defense lawyer Janet Levine's explanation was
that he'd had a severe stomach flu Sunday and was unable to attend the
Monday morning session. Otero remanded him to house arrest, telling him
to bring in medical documentation or else. Francis, who seems to have been
made of Velcro for all the legal trouble that has been sticking to him,
is no stranger to jail cells. He spent nearly a year in a Panama City,
Florida lockup on child abuse and prostitution charges related to a
Spring Break filming of Girls Gone Wild in that state.
Otero ordered Francis back in court February 11 and, until at least then, the Bernhoft firm is still on the hook to represent him.