Like many Hollywood celebrities, Mr. Francis derives much of his value from “interpersonal marketing,” Mr. Barnes said. “To the degree Joe is able to be out there — people see Joe, hear Joe, see good and positive things about Joe — then that helps his business.”
Donald J. Trump, the real estate mogul, says that Mr. Francis is good at his business. “He’s a smart guy. He’s a brilliant marketer,” said Mr. Trump, who has scheduled Mr. Francis to appear on his NBC television show, “Celebrity Apprentice.”
“A lot of people don’t like what he markets,” Mr. Trump said. “But that’s a different subject.”
For now, Mr. Francis is fighting legal battles on two coasts. He was jailed in Florida in April 2007. He pleaded no contest in March to criminal charges of prostitution and child abuse in Florida; he says now that he entered the plea just to get out of jail. Mr. Francis had since been transferred to a jail in Nevada after the federal tax-evasion charges took precedence jurisdictionally over the earlier Florida case.
“I spent four months longer than I could have,” he said, “because I was saying that I wasn’t going to plead.” He changed his mind, he said, when a fellow inmate killed himself and Mr. Francis saw guards hauling the body.
Mr. Francis and his lawyers will hold a news conference on Tuesday announcing their plan to file a suit to have the no-contest settlement in Florida rescinded, as well as to ask for $300 million, claiming civil rights abuses from law enforcement officials in Panama City and Bay County, Fla.
Mr. Francis is represented by Mr. Barnes and Robert G. Bernhoft of Bernhoft Law, a boutique firm based in Milwaukee that specializes in tax-law defense. The firm defended the actor Wesley Snipes earlier this year against felony charges of tax evasion; he was acquitted of the most serious charges by a jury in Florida.
The same lawyers are representing Mr. Francis in Los Angeles, where part of his legal strategy will be to argue against the I.R.S. bounty system. Mr. Francis says he was out of town when the returns for Mantra Films were filed and never reviewed them. Mr. Francis’s lawyers say that any mistakes in the returns were made by Mr. Barrett, without telling Mr. Francis. Mr. Barrett, as chief financial officer and controller of Mantra Films, was qualified to sign the returns, they say.
“Here’s the danger of the I.R.S. bounty system,” Mr. Francis said. “Should there be some kind of system? Yeah. But it shouldn’t be your accountant who prepares and signs and creates your return; he shouldn’t be allowed to collect.”
Even if Mr. Francis were put behind bars again, his business could continue. “It survived when he was in prison before,” said Paul Fishbein, president of AVN Media Network, which follows the sexually explicit film and video industry. “He has sort of a well-oiled machine there. So my guess is, yeah, people go to jail and their businesses run. If he has good people, which I believe he does, then I think it can.”