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Ruling: Joe Francis still defamed Steve Wynn, but now only owes him $19 million

File photos showing casino mogul Steve Wynn (L) and
File photos showing casino mogul Steve Wynn (L) and "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis (R). A judge has cut casino mogul Steve Wynn's slander verdict against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis by $21 million, more than half of the original $40 million jury verdict. A jury found that Francis slandered Wynn when he claimed the casino mogul threatened to kill him and bury him in the desert.
AP Photo/Nick Ut, Chris Pizzello

The saga of Steve Wynn and Joe Francis (and sometimes Quincy Jones) continues with a new ruling.

The $40 million award in the Wynn versus Francis defamation lawsuit was scaled back by roughly half on Friday, the Associated Press reports. The verdict, favoring casino mogul Wynn, was reduced to $19 million by Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell.

One million of the $21 million reduction is related to slander allegations stemming from a "Good Morning America" (GMA) appearance. "Girls Gone Wild" founder Francis' legal team argued it was an error to allow jurors to consider those remarks.

The bulk of O'Donnell's ruling was the elimination of the entire $20 million in punitive damages, an award she called "speculative" on the part of the jury, and "the result of the jury's dislike of the defendant and/or his businesses." Yes, the judge concluded that this group of people may not have liked the guy behind "Girls Gone Wild" and the existence of "Girls Gone Wild" in the first place.

The camp of Joe Francis was quick to issue a press release and celebrate what they called a "massive victory." The statement details the judge's actions as "illegal," Wynn's tactics as "cheating," and "predicts a 100% chance of success in appealing the remaining part of the case." 

Mr. Francis states, "Judge Joanne O'Donnell should have never allowed as evidence my in-court statement that Steve Wynn threatened my life, because it was made in a courtroom while seeking a restraining order against Steve Wynn and therefore, a judicially privileged statement.

Judge O'Donnell committed a judicial error by allowing this case to even proceed to a trial and she knows it. This is only the first step of her back peddling and unwinding her illegal actions in order to try to keep her job as a judge.

Francis then agreed with himself on Twitter about his plan to win the appeal:

Mitchell Langberg, Wynn's attorney, said his casino executive client was "very happy with a $19 million compensatory damages award."

Meanwhile, the jury's determination of defamation remains, notes AP.

The ruling only affects damages awarded in the case and preserves the jury’s determination that Francis defamed Wynn on three separate occasions, including on ABC’s national morning show.