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Steve Wynn-Joe Francis death threat case unfolds in L.A. court

September 5, 2012 |  2:01 pm

Steve Wynn Joe Francis
Did the casino magnate threaten to kill the soft-core porn purveyor?

That's the question jurors are sorting through this week in a strange trial involving an only-in-Los Angeles cast of characters: Steve Wynn, Joe Francis and Quincy Jones.

Wynn has sued Francis over his claims that the Las Vegas casino mogul threatened to have him killed and buried in the desert. Testifying Wednesday, Wynn called the accusation a "terrible lie" that could potentially hurt his reputation and that of his eponymous company.

"He's unrepentant, vicious, out-of-control," Wynn said of Francis, creator of the "Girls Gone Wild" juggernaut.

But since Wynn filed suit in 2010, Francis has maintained that the threat was real. He said music mogul Jones, his neighbor and a longtime friend of Wynn's, told him that Wynn wanted Francis dead in an email.

Francis' team has never produced the email; Wynn said that's because it doesn't exist. Jones is scheduled to testify during the trial.

The Wynn-Francis feud stretches over several years and multiple lawsuits. Francis attorney David Houston suggested Wednesday that their fraught history is what riled Wynn enough to threaten Francis.

Francis made the death-threat accusations while warring with Wynn over a roughly $2-million gambling debt Francis had racked up. Francis and Wynn also battled in court over Francis' accusations that he was plied with prostitutes and drugs during his betting spree. (A Nevada judge sided with Wynn in a lawsuit over those claims.)

In questioning Wynn, Houston tried to prove that the mogul, considered a sort of elder statesman in the gaming industry, was capable of spouting off threats. Houston played part of an interview from the 1980s in which Wynn told TV reporter Meredith Vieira that he'd choke her if she didn't include certain information in her report.

"I think you heard her laugh," Wynn said.

"Or gasp," Houston replied.


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Photo: Joe Francis, left, and Steve Wynn. Credit: Associated Press file photos