Hundreds of hours of videotape seized by deputies in their 2003 search of "Girls Gone Wild" producer Joseph Francis' condominium cannot be used in a court case against him, a judge has ruled.
Circuit Judge Dedee Costello granted a defense motion on Tuesday to suppress all evidence gathered during the searches. Francis was arrested after two 17-year-olds claimed a "Girls Gone Wild" cameraman videotaped them in sexual situations.
Deputies seized 700 items that formed the basis for most of the 42 charges against Francis, 33, and his company. Authorities say Francis targeted underage girls for his videos. He could face decades in prison if convicted.
The case is set for trial this year.
"In a very basic sense, all of the evidence the Sheriff's Office seized is no longer relevant to our case," defense attorney Aaron Dyer told the Panama City News Herald.
State Attorney Steve Meadows said he would have to wait until the order is finalized to know how badly it would damage his case.
"The obvious strength of this case is that much of the illegal conduct alleged is caught on videotape," he said.
Defense attorneys based their motion to suppress on the fact that the search warrants were not specific about what deputies were looking for in the condominium.
In their motion to suppress the evidence they wrote that that investigators never stated what evidence of the specific allegation involving the two underaged girls they expected to find at the condominium.
"Once the undisputed facts are applied to the law, it becomes clear that the searches of the Girls Gone Wild condo units were part of a pre-planned contrived effort on the part of law enforcement to search for and seize every asset, videotape, T-shirt and scrap of paper in the possession of Girls Gone Wild," defense attorneys wrote.