“Bondage Webmaster” Likely Going To Jail

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Graphic accounts of violence ahead. Here is an excerpt from the “fair and balanced” CNET News overview:

… Glenn Marcus’ SlaveSpace.com relied on a novel business model: Finding sex slaves on the Internet, tying them up, whipping them and posting photographs of the process online. Membership to SlaveSpace.com started at $20 for 30 days of access.

Sometime in 1998, a woman named Jodi (referred to in court documents by her first name only) started hunting for information about what’s known as BDSM–bondage, dominance/discipline, submission/sadism and masochism–and found Marcus in an AOL chat room. He went by the screen name “GMYourGod” and demanded absolute obedience.

Later that year, Jodi traveled to Maryland to meet Marcus and a fellow sex slave named Joanna. He whipped Jodi, with her consent, and carved the word “slave” on her stomach with a knife. The next month, she sent a petition to Marcus saying in part: “I am begging to serve you Sir, completely, with no limitations.”

In January 1999, Jodi moved to Maryland to live with Joanna, and Marcus would regularly visit them from his home on Long Island. Occasionally the BDSM-and-sex sessions became severe: Marcus once burned Jodi with cigarettes all over her body. He put a whiffle ball inside her mouth and tried to sew her lips shut with surgical needles. Other encounters cannot be fully described in a mainstream publication.

Many of these incidents were photographed and uploaded to SlaveSpace.com, which Jodi spent much of her time updating, including writing diaries for the site. She referred to herself as “pooch” or “poochie” and wrote lengthy, rambling essays saying things like: “i need to serve Him, to please Him. i not only want to, i need to. i feel this so deeply, every single part of me feels this.”

At some point around August 2001, they became estranged, but, according to Jodi, she felt unable to escape the relationship because she was afraid of Marcus. She later acknowledged staying in contact with him through 2003, even going camping with him.

After Marcus would not remove the photos from the Internet (he claimed to have a valid model release), Jodi contacted the FBI. Federal prosecutors charged Marcus with sex trafficking, forced labor and dissemination of obscene materials through an interactive computer service.

For the jury, consent was key: Did Jodi agree to the sadistic activities at the time, in which case Marcus would be not guilty as charged? A Village Voice article says: “It’s possible that she regretted her participation and re-wrote her role into an unwilling victim, but it’s equally likely that Marcus lost touch with reality, believed he actually owned her, and behaved accordingly.”

On March 5, Marcus was found guilty of sex trafficking and forced labor but not guilty of distributing obscene materials. His attorneys responded by filing a motion asking for a new trial or acquittal on technical grounds, including that the sex-trafficking law was not meant to apply to consensual BDSM activities.

U.S. District Judge Allyne Ross denied the request. Marcus, 53, is free until sentencing, at which point he could face anywhere from 30 years to life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for June 5.

Here is an excerpt from the actual court opinion in United States v. Marcus, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 35969, which provides a somewhat different account, to put it mildly:

The defendant instructed Jodi to engage in a series of BDSM activities with him and other women, which the defendant photographed and posted on a website maintained by Joanna known as “Subspace.” (Id. at 91-93.) For example, Jodi was whipped, choked, and had sexual intercourse while tied to a wall. (Id. at 90.) At the time, Jodi found some of these activities to be sexually gratifying. (Id.) She and the other women were required to write diary entries to post on the defendant’s website describing the BDSM activities they engaged in with the defendant and expressing the joy and gratitude the “slaves” felt about serving their “master.” (Id. at 91.)

When the defendant was not present at the apartment, Jodi and Joanna were expected to ensure that each was complying with his instructions. (Id. at 93-94.) For example, they were told to recite daily the “Master’s Expectations,” which outlined the expected conduct of the defendant’s slaves. (Id. at 94-95; see also Govt. Ex. 2C, at 1014-20.) The defendant would also direct Joanna or Jodi to wear butt plugs n6 or breast clamps for long periods of time. (Id. at 95.) If either failed to follow instructions, the other one would inform the defendant and he would either administer punishments himself or order one to punish the other. (Id. at 96.) Jodi was punished nearly every time she saw the defendant, including being whipped or placed in a large, metal dog cage in the apartment. (Id. at 97-98.)

Several months after Jodi began living at Joanna’s apartment, the punishments inflicted by the defendant became increasingly severe, and Jodi began feeling depressed. (Id. at 98.) In June 1999, she burned her arm twice with a cigarette. (Id.) Fearing that the defendant would notice the burns when he visited from New York, she told him on the telephone what she had done. (Id.) He instructed Joanna to burn herself with a cigarette on her arm and then to punish Jodi by defecating on her face in the bathtub and making her clean the bathtub with her tongue. (Id.; Govt. Ex. 2C, at 299, 307.) When the defendant arrived at Joanna’s apartment, he slapped Jodi so hard she was “seeing stars.” (Tr. at 99.) He then burned her with a cigarette all over her body, including her forehead, arms, the bottom of her feet, the back of her neck, and inside her vagina. (Id. at 99-100.) Jodi testified that “I felt like I was literally in hell” and “like I was on fire; I couldn’t put it out.” (Id. at 100.) While Jodi was miserable because she believed she had disappointed the defendant, she continued to remain in the relationship because she believed she could do better and that she belonged with him. (Id. at 103.) At some point, the defendant instructed Jodi to convince her younger sister to travel to Maryland to visit and, when she arrived, to drug her with “ruffies” so the defendant could rape her. (See id. at 103-04.) Jodi was also directed to use the internet to recruit a new slave to join them in Maryland. (Id. at 104.) Because Jodi refused to complete the first task and was unsuccessful with the second, the defendant told her that, the next time he visited, she would be so severely punished that she might not be able to work for some time afterwards. (Id. at 104, 207; Govt. Ex. 31.)

In October 1999, the defendant arrived in Maryland, where he handcuffed Jodi to the wall and told her that he would punish her after he took a nap. (Tr. at 104.) While she was on the wall, Jodi testified that she had a moment of clarity and decided that she wanted to leave. (Id. at 104-5.) She told Celia, another woman serving the defendant, and Celia helped her get down. (Id. at 105.) Joanna awakened the defendant, who ordered that Jodi be returned to the wall. (Id.) When Jodi informed the defendant that she wanted to leave, he told her to shut up. (Id.) He then put a whiffle ball inside her mouth, closed her lips shut with surgical needles so that she was unable to speak, and placed a hood over her head. (Id. at 105-7.) While she was on the wall, he whipped and beat her with a cane extremely hard for an extended period of time and had sexual intercourse with her. (Id. at 106.) The defendant then took Jodi off the wall and attached her with handcuffs to a flat board, at which point he attempted to sew Jodi’s vagina closed using a sewing needle and thread, only stopping when the needle broke. (Id. at 106-7.) A butt plug was inserted into her anus (Govt. Ex. 2C, at 369, 1223), and the defendant used a knife to carve his initials into the soles of her feet (Tr. at 107). While this incident was taking place, Jodi was crying and screaming. (Id. at 107.) The abuse was photographed and Jodi had to write a diary entry about it, and these were placed on the defendant’s website. (See Tr. at 109; Govt. Ex. 2C at 365-74, 1217-24.) This was the most extreme punishment to which Jodi had ever been subjected. (Tr. at 123.) Prior to this experience, Jodi believed that she would be able to leave any time she wished. (Id. at 108.) However, after this episode, Jodi testified that she felt “completely beaten down,” “trapped and full of terror.” (Id. at 108.) She no longer wished to be involved with the defendant and remained with him only out of fear. (Id. at 170.)

In November 1999, Joanna told the defendant that she no longer wanted to serve him. (Id. at 125.) While both Jodi and Joanna were on the telephone with the defendant, he threatened to send photographs and a videotape of Joanna engaged in sexually explicit behavior to her father and to kill her godson if Joanna did not continue to serve him. (Id. at 127-29; see Govt. Ex. 12.) As a consequence, Jodi became terrified that, if she attempted to leave the defendant, he would send pictures to her family or harm one of her family members. (Tr. at 128.) In January 2000, the defendant instructed Jodi to move to New York and stay at the apartment of a woman named Rona, who, Jodi was told, had been his slave since she was 13 years old. (Id. at 134.) As Joanna had taken down the Subspace website, the defendant told Jodi to create and manage a new BDSM website entitled “Slavespace.” (Id.) After creating the website, Jodi worked on it approximately eight to nine hours a day, updating photographs and diary entries and clicking on banner advertisements to increase revenue and enhance its visibility on the internet. (Id. at 148-49.) Although she did not want to work on the website, she continued to do so because she was terrified of the consequences if she refused. (Id. at 149.) The defendant punished Jodi if she failed to post diary entries or pictures quickly enough or if the website made less money than he expected. (Id.) In April 2001, when the defendant was displeased with Jodi’s work on the website, he put a safety pin through her labia and attached a padlock to it, closing her vagina. (Id. at 150-51.) In an attempt to stop Jodi from screaming and crying during this incident, Rona put a washcloth in Jodi’s mouth and the defendant whipped her with a knife. (Id.) The defendant photographed this incident and the pictures were placed on the Slavespace website. (See Govt. Ex. 2C, at 543, 546-50.) All revenues made from the website went to the defendant. (Tr. at 153.) The website had a section available exclusively to members, for which fees of approximately $ 30 per month were charged. (Id. at 145, 148.) The defendant made several hundred dollars per month from the member section of the site and an additional several hundred dollars from advertising. (Id. at 149-50, 153; Govt. Ex. 23.) During this period, the defendant continued to punish Jodi severely. For example, he once whipped Jodi so hard that she vomited. (Tr. at 154.) He also held a plastic bag over her head until she passed out. (Id. at 155.) In another incident, he zipped Jodi into a plastic garment bag and choked her through the plastic. (Id. at 156). Each of these incidents was non-consensual and each was photographed for the website. (Id. at 154-57.) However, Jodi continued to stay with the defendant because she was terrified of his reaction if she left and feared that he might publicly expose her. (Id. at 158.) At one point, when she expressed to him how unhappy she was, the defendant threatened to send photographs of her to her family and the media. (Id. at 158-59.) In March 2001, Jodi called the defendant and told him that she wanted to leave, and he told her that she would first have to endure one final punishment. (Id. at 159-60.) Even though she was terrified, she agreed to do so because she feared the consequences if she did not comply. (Id. at 159-60.) The defendant drove her to the Long Island residence of a woman named Sherry, instructed her to take off her clothes, and then directed her to go to the basement. (Id.) As she was descending to the basement, Jodi realized that she could not go through with the punishment and the defendant forced her to go down the stairs. (Id. at 161.) Jodi started to scream and the defendant banged her head against a beam in the basement, bound her hands and ankles and attached her to the beam. (Id. at 161-62.) He then beat and whipped her for over an hour. (Id. at 162, 165.) While he was beating her, he told her that she belonged to him and needed to serve him. (Id. at 165) At various times, he removed the chair or box under her feet so that she was suspended from the ceiling by the ropes. (Id. at 162, 164.) He made her take a Valium (id. at 164; Govt. Ex. 28) and put a large surgical needle through her tongue (Tr. at 164). Jodi continued to try to scream, even with the needle in her tongue. (Id. at 164.) The defendant then left her suspended for half an hour or 45 minutes, until her feet and hands became completely numb. (Id. at 165.) After letting her down, he took her to a bedroom and had sexual intercourse with her. (Id. at 166.) The defendant photographed Jodi throughout the punishment and forced her to write a diary entry about it to post on his website. (See id. at 165-67; Govt. Ex. 2C at 531-34, 536, 538, 540.) Jodi testified that, after this incident, she felt broken and terrified and as if there was no way she would be able to leave the relationship. (Tr. at 168.) She continued to live in Rona’s apartment until August 2001. (Id. at 172.)

In August 2001, Rona communicated to the defendant that she did not want Jodi to live in her apartment any longer, and the defendant allowed Jodi to move out. (See id.) When Jodi obtained her own apartment, her interactions with the defendant became less frequent and less extreme. (Id. at 173.) However, she continued to stay involved with the defendant in order to maintain a semblance of control over his use of her pictures on the website. (Id. at 173, 175.) During this time period, the defendant posted diary entries on the website exposing personal information that Jodi had told him about her family. (Id. at 174; Govt Ex. 2C, at 703-05.) He also posted a “Find Pooch” contest on his website, offering a free membership to any person who photographed her on the street, and he provided information as to Jodi’s whereabouts and the location of her apartment. (Tr. at 175, 186; Govt. Ex. 2C, at 3907, 3909.) Jodi maintained contact with the defendant until 2003. (Id. at 176.) [Emphasis added.]

Given that most of the information in the press accounts of this case came from court documents, the differences in the way the facts are relayed by the media accounts are astounding.

–Ann Bartow

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0 Responses to “Bondage Webmaster” Likely Going To Jail

  1. The contrast you note is indeed striking. It is easy to understand how some in the BDSM community are wary of the allegations and sympathetic to Marcus, though they might not be if they read the court’s actual findings. Like any case involving sexual violence, the inflammatory nature of the charges and reliance on conflicting testimony from the defendant and complainant makes this one easy to argue over, indeed easy to make into a cipher for sexual politics generally. In this day and age one would hope that reflexive suspicion of claims of sexual violence would be beyond the pale, and the courts could be relied upon as crucibles of truth in such cases far more than in the past. What makes cases involving BDSM different, and makes people more inclined the doubt the victim, is not any reason to think that false accusations are more likely, but the knowledge that judges and jurors generally do not understand or accept consensual BDSM to begin with. Nevertheless, the reversal of the Jovanovic conviction in 1999 should give some indication that, at least in New York, courts are not so wildly prejudiced against defendants in cases involving BDSM as to justify reviving this sort of reflexive suspicion. In any event, the serious problem of society’s prejudices against responsible practicitioners of BDSM does not justify treating women in the community who complain of sexual violence as untrustworthy.