A second man has entered a guilty plea in what federal prosecutors say was the enslavement and torture of a disabled woman. The main defendant in the case and some people who knew the woman have alleged that it was consensual BDSM.
A former postmaster, fifty-one year-old Dennis Henry admitted to having sex with the woman and helping transport her across state lines. They were going to California for the woman's shoot in the Hustler-owned Taboo magazine.
The wife of Ed Bagley, who is accused of being the ringleader, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch back in November, "You ever watch Big Love? Ed wasn't married to her or anything like that. But that's what it was. It was just us. ... It was just a normal, happy family." (The woman lived with the couple from the time she was sixteen, though apparently the sexual activity began when she turned 18.)
That happy scenario is belied somewhat by Henry's account in his plea agreement: The Kansas City Star reports that "Henry said that on the day of the shoot, the woman grew scared and 'melted' when she realized that she might have to sustain shocks from a crank telephone that Bagley brought."
Bagley has pleaded not guilty, and another man involved, James Noel, 45, pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count. Investigators have also alleged that another defendant was trying to hire a hitman to kill Cynthia Cordes, the assistant U.S. attorney on the case.
Marilyn Bagley has said that the woman was an eager participant, that the "sex slavery contract" was a standard BDSM role-playing agreement they found online, and denies chilling accounts in federal filings of forced abortions or murdered pets. Community members interviewed by the Post-Dispatch also disputed descriptions of the woman as mentally disabled.
It's unambiguous that in March 2009, the woman filed for an order of protection against Bagley, shortly after being hospitalized under circumstances that are in dispute. She said in her complaint that Bagley "will come after me and hurt me. He has locked me in cages and has used shock devices on me and refused to let me leave." Subsequently, she has cooperated with federal investigators.
Lest the fact that the Bagleys and the woman practiced BDSM in its more extreme forms cloud the issue, that's the key question here. Neighbors may have seen the woman eagerly participating in sex work or BDSM at one interval; if indeed given, consent appears to have been withdrawn at some point in the proceedings, and that's what this is about.
Image via St. Louis Post-Dispatch