The Supreme Court will delve into the shadowy world of sadomasochism next year as it looks into the case of a sex trafficker, known as the “S&M Svengali,” whose criminal conviction had been set aside.
The justices Tuesday agreed to accept the government’s appeal of a case involving Glenn Marcus, who had been sentenced to nine years in prison for the sexual abuse, physical mutilation and psychological humiliation of a woman who had agreed to be photographed as his “sex slave.” A federal appeals court threw out the conviction, saying some of the offenses occurred before the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which was used to prosecute Marcus. Justice Sonia Sotomayor — who was on that appeals court — did not take part in the high court’s consideration of whether to accept the appeal, and is not likely to attend oral arguments, which would take place early next year. Like her colleagues on the appeals bench, Sotomayor said at the time of the ruling that prior precedents required the conviction be set aside, but she conceded the Supreme Court might view the issue differently. She noted the justices had, in some cases, found that lower court errors in application of the law “do not seriously affect the fairness, integrity or public reputation of the judicial proceedings.” 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.
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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 he 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. The appellate court concluded that Jodi never benefited financially, since Marcus had kept profits from the Web site. Other women along the East Coast also were involved in Marcus’ master-slave business. The case is U.S. v. Marcus (08-1341).