POSTED: 4:31 a.m. HST, Sep 5, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 4:32 a.m. HST, Sep 5, 2012
LOS ANGELES >> Steve Wynn and porn producer Joe Francis faced off before jurors Tuesday, with the casino mogul denying that he threatened to kill the "Girls Gone Wild" founder and saying the accusation is threatening his upscale casinos.
Jurors listened to wildly varying accounts of whether Wynn threatened to hit Francis over the head with a shovel and have him buried in the desert, with the soft-porn producer insisting he heard about the threats from record executive Quincy Jones. Francis testified that Jones told him Wynn made the threats in conversations and emails, but Wynn denies it.
"I've never sent an email in my life," the 70-year-old designer of signature casinos such as The Mirage, Bellagio, Wynn and Encore, told jurors.
Wynn is suing Francis for slander, the latest legal fight in ongoing battles between the two men that include gambling debt that Francis racked up in one of Wynn Resorts Ltd.'s casinos.
Wynn also testified that he has been repeatedly investigated by gambling oversight agencies and the FBI for a presidential commission appointment and wouldn't be allowed to run casinos if he made threats.
"It would be a singularly self-destructive act - incredibly, incredibly stupid," Wynn said.
The billionaire was mostly poised throughout his testimony, his deep voice occasionally quivering when he discussed the potential downfall that Francis' claims could spark.
"I'm sitting here because Joe Francis decided he wanted to destroy my company because he didn't want to pay his marker," Wynn said, using a term to refer to a gambling debt.
Francis was at times jittery and combative toward Wynn's attorney - and argued with a judge who urged him to keep his answers succinct - but maintained Jones gave him good reason to fear Wynn. "He was trying to save my life," Francis said of the record producer.
He claims Jones told him that Wynn was a gangster and a murderer who was the de-facto head of the Genovese mob family. In deposition testimony read in court, Francis claimed Jones said about Wynn, "He's gangster. He's old Vegas. He doesn't play."
Francis acknowledged he never actually read the emails Jones claimed he received. He said he saw one was written in all capital letters but couldn't describe them further.
Jones, who is Francis' next-door neighbor and a close friend of Wynn's, is expected to testify in the trial.
Wynn, who said he had never threatened anyone in his life, said he was concerned that Francis' allegations will hurt his reputation with his thousands of employees in Las Vegas and harm future casino projects.
"If I was a gangster and a criminal, what would that mean to their job security?" Wynn said.
Calling Francis "the most desperate, the most reprehensible" character he has met in more than four decades of work in Vegas, Wynn said he had to sue to protect his honor and business.
"The trouble is Joe Francis' statement stands without the footnote that Joe Francis is a flake," Wynn said.