'Girls Gone Wild' Producer Victimized
LOS ANGELES -- Testimony continues today in the preliminary hearing for a man accused of robbing Joe Francis, the creator of the "Girls Gone Wild" video series. Yesterday, Francis testified that the intruder repeatedly threatened him with a gun and forced him to pose in a sexually humiliating videotape.
With a gun in one hand and a videocamera in the other, Darnell Riley of Los Angeles told Francis to lie partially nude on his bed with a sex toy next to him and say he enjoyed having unconventional sex, Francis said.
Riley threatened to make the tape public if the multi-millionaire producer of videotapes of young women baring their breasts did not pay him $300,000, Francis said.
Francis' testimony came yesterday during the first day of a preliminary hearing for Riley, 28, who is charged with burglary, robbery, kidnapping, carjacking and extortion.
The case was reportedly broken in December 2004 with the help of Francis' ex-girlfriend, Paris Hilton, based on information she overheard at a party. Hilton is not expected to testify.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernard Kemper granted a prosecution request to ban taping of Francis' testimony.
Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun compared Francis to a sex crime victim because of the videotape Riley allegedly made and said showing Francis' testimony on television would embarrass him.
During about four hours on the witness stand, Francis repeatedly said he feared for his life and was driven to tears by his ordeal that night, which began shortly after midnight Jan. 22, 2004 and lasted several hours.
Riley, whom Francis identified in court as his assailant, took about $1,100 in cash, a Rolex watch and camera equipment, Francis said. Riley also took two designer bags stuffed with other items, including what Francis described as a genuine Picasso sketch, Francis said.
"As I walked through my house he would just grab things like he was on a shopping spree," Francis testified. "I didn't care what he took, I just didn't want him to kill me."
Francis said he went to a Hollywood nightclub the evening of Jan. 21, 2004 and was unsure if he locked his doors or set his alarm. When he returned, he was confronted by a man wearing a mask, Francis said.
"A guy came out of (the kitchen) holding a gun and ordered me on the ground," Francis said.
The intruder tied him up with bindings and duct tape and asked if anyone else was expected to come, Francis said. Francis said he lied and told the man a woman was coming, hoping that would encourage his assailant to leave.
However, the man forced him to an upstairs bedroom and told him to call the woman, and Francis left a message on her answering machine, he said.
The man later removed his mask and initially demanded $100,000, Francis said.
"I was trying to reassure him I'd get the money so he wouldn't kill me," Francis said.
However, at one point the man asked Francis to open a safe to which Francis did not know the combination, he said. The witness said he tried to convince the man he couldn't open it.
"I was pleading with him until I broke into tears," Francis said. "Even today I couldn't open that safe."
The man gave up on trying to open the safe and never bothered asking about a second safe, which held thousands of dollars, Francis said.
Francis showed no emotion in court while watching the videotape Riley allegedly forced him to make. Everything on the tape was ordered by Riley, he said.
"He gave me nonstop directions," Francis said.
Later, Riley ordered him into the back seat of the victim's Rolls Royce, still bound with bindings and duct tape, Francis said.
"He said we're going to take a little ride," Francis said.
Riley asked for $300,000 in exchange for having the embarrassing videotape returned and warned him he would be killed if he called the police, Francis said.
Francis said Riley left and got into a car with another man, whom the witness said he presumed was the same person with whom Riley talked by two-way radio in the victim's home.
Francis said he called police and cooperated with them as Riley repeatedly called him with his money demands during the next six months.
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