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'Girls Gone Wild' founder convicted of assault

Published: 07th May 2013 10:31 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th May 2013 10:31 AM   |  A+A-

"Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis was found guilty Monday of misdemeanor counts of assault and false imprisonment stemming from a dispute with three women after a night out at a Hollywood club in 2011.

Francis' company, GGW Brands LLC, made a fortune selling "Girls Gone Wild " videos and magazines showing young women flashing their breasts. The company filed for bankruptcy in February after years of legal troubles, listing more than $16 million in disputed claims.

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich said in a statement that after a two-week trial, a jury convicted the 40-year-old Francis of three counts of false imprisonment, one count of assault causing great bodily injury and one count of dissuading a witness. He faces a maximum of five years in prison. A hearing to schedule his sentencing was set for Wednesday.

Francis met the three women as they celebrated a college graduation at a the Supper Club in Hollywood on Jan. 29, 2011, took one of them by the hand as he left and took her to his limo, and the other two followed thinking Francis was giving them a ride to their car, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Francis took the women to his home and a dispute broke out when he tried to separate one from the other two, with Francis grabbing one of the women by the hair and throat and slammed her head into the floor.

After an investigation, the district attorney declined to file felony charges in the case and referred it to the city attorney, who filed the misdemeanor charges.

Previous phone numbers for Francis were disconnected, and neither he nor his attorneys could immediately be reached for comment.

Reports about the search for notorious river bandit Naw Kham, wanted for the 2011 murders of 13 Chinese sailors, offer some clues about China's plans for drones.

The head of the Chinese Public Security Ministry's anti-narcotics bureau, Liu Yuejin, was quoted by state media as saying a plan had been floated to target Naw Kham's fortified camp with a drone loaded with 20 kilograms of TNT. The type of drone wasn't mentioned.

The plan was dropped by higher-ups in favor of taking Naw Kham alive, but the revelation served as a statement of Chinese intentions and capabilities.

China began developing drones in the 1960s and is believed to have used them for reconnaissance during its brief 1979 invasion of Vietnam. The program was aided by the adaptation of foreign civilian or dual-use UAVs for military purposes, then took a leap forward with the purchase of Harpy drones from Israel. Later, U.S. opposition to Israeli upgrades on the Harpys spurred China to build its own version.

China's gains are aided by the industry's relatively low costs and short production schedule and boosted by the assembly of the country's homebuilt Beidou navigation satellite system and improved high-speed data links.

China's military is expected to field hundreds, if not thousands, of drones, although the overall size of the fleet is difficult to estimate and the U.S. will ultimately have many more.

Chinese UAVs range from simple propeller-driven models to the high-concept, stealthy Dark Sword, featuring a joined wing and tail assembly similar to the U.S. Avenger.

More than 90 percent of the Chinese drones now in service are variants on the simpler ASN-209 surveillance drone seen in navy drills and which are now being produced under license by Egypt.

Others include the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, which bears a striking resemblance to the U.S. Reaper and carries a brace of missiles. Chinese media reports and air show staff say it has been exported to countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, possibly the United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan, at just a fraction of the Reaper's price tag of $30 million each.

Military officials in the UAE and Uzbekistan declined to comment on the reports.

Another combat drone being offered for export, the CH-4, has space for four missiles and is said to be able to fly continuously for 30 hours.

Even more ambitious is the Xiang Long BZK-005, similar to the U.S. Global Hawk. It has a reported 6,437-kilometer (4,000-mile) range and is roughly the size of a medium-size fighter jet. Deployment may be some time off, however, and a 2011 crash points to rumored problems with the guidance system.

Further developments could see China competing with world's two major drone producers, the United States and Israel, for markets in close ally Pakistan, Myanmar and other developing nations. Customers might even include Russia, which is the world's No. 2 arms exporter but has had little success making UAVs.

There are some indications China may already be exporting know-how to Pakistan, given design similarities between Chinese drones and Pakistan's Shahpar UAV, said Huw Williams, an expert on drones at Jane's Defence Weekly. However, Williams said China will likely struggle to find customers for its larger drones, given limited demand and the large number of countries developing such systems of their own.

"They're very interested in getting into this market," SIPRI's Wezeman said. "Another few years and they will have caught up."

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