In 2011, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of U.S. v. Marcus, which deals with the sentencing of a man who was convicted of "sexual abuse, physical mutilation and psychological humiliation" of "his sex slave."
According to the trial record, Marcus ran a Web site that featured photos he had taken of women who acted as "sex slaves" and were subjected to varying levels of physical abuse. The woman at the center of the case — identified only as "Jodi" — had met the defendant in 1998 and agreed to participate in his commercial activities.
At issue was whether Marcus took the relationship too far and held Jodi against her wishes. Prosecutors claim he manipulated and forced the woman to undergo the punishment, then write about it for the Web site. The incidents took place at various locations between 1999 and 2001.
Attorneys for Marcus said the relationship was consensual, even enjoyable, and that Jodi had signed an employment contract and was provided for through the for-profit Web site, which had paying members and advertising. They also said that while the public may find the details unsettling, it was done in the privacy of homes.
The woman testified she felt like a prisoner and she could not escape her situation. Her head was shaved and the word "slave" was written on her stomach by Marcus with a knife. She claimed she was whipped regularly, hung by her arms from posts, and subjected to a range of humiliating poses.
Marcus was initially sentenced to nine years in prison. However, the appellate court overturned the previous ruling, deeming that the law used to prosecute Marcus - the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act - was not in effect during the time of some of the offenses.
Much of the press interest in this case revolves around Justice Sotomayor's role in the appeals process, where she was among the justices who voted to overturn the conviction.