LOS ANGELES, Sept 10 (Reuters) - A Los Angeles jury awarded casino owner Steve Wynn $20 million in damages on Monday in his defamation suit against Joe Francis, creator of the "Girls Gone Wild" video series, who Wynn accused of slander for claiming the Las Vegas mogul wanted him killed.
The lawsuit accused Francis of publicly stating on several occasions, including during a national television broadcast, that Wynn wanted to have Francis killed over a gambling debt and buried in the desert.
Wynn maintained that such an accusation could undermine his business empire in a state like Nevada, where the gambling industry is tightly regulated.
The verdict in Wynn's favor capped a week-long trial during which he and Francis both testified, as did music producer Quincy Jones.
The Los Angeles County Superior Court jury began deliberating the case on Friday, after Wynn's lawyer asked for$12 million in compensatory damages for his client for emotional distress and damage to his reputation.
In addition to awarding Wynn $20 million in compensatory damages, the jurors also found that Francis acted with malice, setting the stage for a second phase of the trial to determine whether punitive damages should be ordered. That phase of the trial begins on Tuesday.
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