Going To Prison: Bagley’s Wife Charged, Two Guilty Pleas
I’m just catching up to the developments since my last update on the Bagley kidnapping/torture case in Missouri.
The last development was that defendant James Noel had entered a guilty plea and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution, and that defendant Bradley Cook was accused of trying to hire hitman to kill the prosecutor or the victim from behind bars. The new developments are these: another defendant has pleaded guilty, and a grand jury has indicted Bagley’s wife Marilyn.
Dennis Henry pleaded guilty not long after Noel. From the original five, that leaves Ed Bagley, Bradley Cook, and Michael Stokes. Henry is presumably cooperating, and that adds a great deal to the prosecution’s evidence. Henry was apparently the driver on a trip to California for a porn shoot. On the trip,
Henry drove the majority of the trip from Missouri to California, where he, the woman and another person stayed at a “dirty motel” located near an “alley filled with trash, needles and drug paraphernalia.”
In California, the woman became scared, Henry told the feds. She also “melted” and withdrew when she saw a crank phone used to administer electric shocks. She told Henry that she hated the phone and feared the pain.
Bagley’s attorney has said publicly that the defense will allege consent. Henry’s testimony will make that almost impossible to sell. He now says:
Henry told the feds that the woman was subjected to “the most extreme forms of torture he had ever seen.” The woman’s vagina was sewn shut as punishment. She was also locked in a cage. Henry never asked the woman if she needed or wanted help.
There’s no debate that a lot of really physically extreme things were done to the body of the survivor, FV (the pseudonym prosecutors are using, for “female victim”). Bagley will be essentially asking the jury to take his word that she really wanted to do really, really painful things (and dangerous things — FV was rescued when her heart stopped and she went to the hospital, because that’s what happens when people who don’t know or don’t care what they are doing engage in breathplay and electrical stimulation), and he will also be asking the judge to tell the jury that consent is a defense.
I’ll take the second part first. I could write a book on the law of consent and BDSM, but I’ll shortcut this for you: in much of the US, you can argue it either way (though not in the UK, where some BDSM is pretty clearly illegal). The cases are scattered and factually unique enough to argue that each is distinuishable from virtually any other set of facts, and prosecutors in recent years have more often acted as though BDSM is legal when consensual. Lawyers who know the cases can argue that one can’t consent to assault, or can’t in many instances, or that mostly one can consent to assault; it’s not at all clear how any judge or appellate court will go on that. It’s a problem, actually, because it makes the consensual acts my wife does to me arguably criminal, and the potential for criminal liability may deter abuse survivors from coming forward. (Seriously, in the UK Operation Spanner cases, some bottoms were charged with, essentially, aiding and abetting assaults on themselves for consenting.) NCSF is working to bring some reason to this nonsense in its Consent Counts project.
So it’s not clear that the judge will instruct the jury that consent is a defense. Juries being what they are, it’s possible they’d bend over backwards to acquit if they thought it was consensual, but they might also feel bound by the judge’s instructions and convict if the acts were proved regardless of FV’s state of mind.
But that’s an academic question, because I doubt they’re going to believe this was consensual. With Henry’s and Noel’s testimony backing up FV, there’s no way a jury is going to believe that she liked the things they did to her. It’s counterintuitive, because most people really don’t like heavy pain, and cringe just thinking about it. It is certainly possible to like heavy pain. I know some pretty serious masochists. I know people who say, “hey, I’d like to try [some really painful and scary thing]“, either because they like to see how hard they can push themselves, or because pain is a rush, or for reasons that I can understand but don’t have the patience to explain. In fact, sometimes I’m one of those people. This case is not that. I’m as open as people get to the idea that some folks just like heavy pain, and I don’t buy that here. The testimony will be that she hated the crank telephone so much she went into a meltdown.
So then, Bagley is stuck with the argument that because FV signed a piece of paper at age 18, possibly with diminished capacity, possibly under duress, she agreed to whatever he did for years after, no matter how much she hated it, no matter how unsafe it was, no matter how much she wanted to leave. And that’s the stupidest fucking argument in the universe.
Bagley has only one chance, and that’s that the jury decides that women like FV don’t deserve any protection. People get so irrational in their hatred of sex work and specifically of women who do it, that I can’t discount that possibility. But the chance of that is pretty slim. I expect Bagley to go to trial, just because there’s probably no deal for him. Probably the offer, as folks say in the criminal law world, is “plead to the charge.”
Up to this point, his principal defender was his wife, who was the main source for a creepy victim-blaming article that Change.org criticized here. But if her husband was torturing a scared young women in their tiny home, where was she? If FV hated being tortured and wanted to get away, why didn’t Marilyn Bagley help? In fact, she is alleged to have helped recruit the girl, who moved in with the couple at Age 16. From Pitch.com’s March 31 article:
Marilyn Bagley is accused of posing in photographs, taken by Edward Bagley, in which she allegedly sexually abused the girl. Marilyn Bagley is also accused of telling the girl to “do as she was told” and refusing to offer her help when the girl expressed fear of Edward Bagley. The feds allege that Marilyn Bagley benefited financially from her role in the sex trafficking scheme.
For Ed Bagley, the indictment of his wife presents a huge problem. First, if he cares about her at all, he’s under pressure to plead to the charge in exchange for leniency on her. Second, her credibility is shot to hell. She’s not just defending her husband; her own butt is on the line. Photos of her being sexual with a young women who is being threatened and tortured put her clearly in the crosshairs and she has to say that it was all consensual or she’s a rapist, too. Unless she was threatened and terrified of her husband, in which case maybe she deserves sympathy, but if that’s true then FV must also have been a terrified prisoner. There’s no scenario where there are photos of Marilyn Bagley being sexual with FV that doesn’t hurt Ed Bagley’s defense.
The headlines in these posts are becoming more and more forgone conclusions: Ed Bagley is going to prison.