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Girls Gone Wild videos founder surrenders

    PENSACOLA, Fla. - The founder of the Girls Gone Wild video empire surrendered to federal marshals early Tuesday on contempt of court charges.

    Joe Francis, 34, was booked into the Bay County Jail later Tuesday, said Ruth Sasser, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

    "His attorneys continue to work toward a settlement," Kevin Mercuri, a spokesman for Francis, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

    Francis makes an estimated $29 million a year through the videos of girls baring their breasts and in other sexually provocative situations. He surrendered to marshals in Panama City.

    He drew the contempt order during negotiations in a federal civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underaged when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003.

    Lawyers for the women told U.S. District Judge Richard Smoak that Francis became enraged in the settlement talks, shouting obscenities at the lawyers and threatening to "bury them."

    Smoak ordered Francis to settle the case or go to jail for his behavior.

    Negotiations continued with the help of a mediator, but broke down Thursday and Smoak issued the arrest warrant. Francis had been a fugitive since.

    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has denied an emergency motion from Francis asking that he be allowed to remain free pending an appeal of Smoak's order.

    Francis lashed out at Smoak on Thursday, calling him "a judge gone wild" and saying that the judge "had lost his mind."

    Francis said the women wanted $70 million in their civil suit and that he had countered with "an     extraordinary amount of money."

    "It was to the point where the was girls would never have to work again as long as they live," he said.

    Francis also said he would settle the case to avoid jail time.

    "I'll give up a billion dollars, but it will be under duress," he said, arguing any money given would be voided in an appeal.

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