A mentally disabled young woman allegedly kept for years as a brutally tortured sex slave in Missouri had her pictures taken by Hollywood photographer Ken Marcus for the cover of Taboo Magazine, a title in Larry Flynt's Hustler empire — a situation that sent FBI agents knocking at Marcus' studio and the Beverly Hills office tower owned by the porn mogul.
The images appeared in two issues of Taboo, the Flynt magazine specializing in hard-core fetish pornography. While it's highly unlikely that Marcus or Flynt will face any criminal action, they could be called to testify or face civil action if the woman should ever choose to sue.
Marcus first took the woman's picture for the July 2007 cover of Taboo (at left; photo cropped and blurred) with fetish model Anastasia Price. Her "master," a 43-year-old man from Lebanon, Missouri, named Ed Bagley Sr. (pictured below, right), was also photographed.
The woman was back in the pages of Taboo one month later in an interview where she discussed her relationship with Bagley, who took the photos for that feature himself.
Federal prosecutors filed an indictment Sept. 8 accusing Bagley, known as "Master Ed" in the bondage and sado-masochism community, of keeping the woman as his sex slave for over seven years, torturing her, threatening her and giving her drugs. Bagley also allegedly sold the woman for sex and bondage sessions, live webcam shows and strip-club appearances.
According to the indictment, Bagley met her when she was a 16-year-old runaway and enticed her to move into his trailer in the woods through promises of "'a great life," including making her a model and a dancer.
Prosecutors said the woman believed she was legally bound to Bagley for life by a "sex slavery contract" he made her sign shortly after her 18th birthday.
Authorities first became involved in February 2009, when she showed up in an emergency room in cardiac arrest after allegedly being suffocated and electrocuted during one of Bagley's "torture sessions." The sessions allegedly included a long list of violent acts over the years: beating, whipping, flogging, forced abortions, choking, caning, skewering, drowning, mutilation, hanging, caging, shocking, stapling and sewing.
Bagley was charged with 10 counts, including firearms violations, forced labor trafficking, document servitude and conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance to a person under 21. He faces a maximum of life imprisonment. Four other men are also charged for allegedly paying Bagley to have sex with the woman and watch torture sessions online.
According to the indictment, two of the men helped Bagley finance a trip to California in late 2006 "with the intent that the female victim perform sexual acts during a photo shoot" for Taboo.
In June 2007, Bagley discussed the Hustler appearance in an online forum for sado-masochists.
"My slave girl is in Taboo magazine, but it's the July issue, she is in and on the cover … Also, the interview about the slave and Myself is in the august issue of Taboo … It was a very fun experience," Bagley wrote.
The extremely graphic photos were taken by Marcus, a a well-known photographer who specializes in portraits of musicians, artistic nudes and erotic photos.
On his website, Marcus (pictured left) says he got his start at 13, as the youngest student of legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams, who taught him for 13 years. Marcus went on to work as a lensman at both Playboy and Penthouse. He is perhaps best known for a series of iconic pictures of Jimi Hendrix burning his guitar, which he took as an official backstage photographer at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Marcus told TheWrap that he reached out to Bagley and the woman via email after he saw one of their live shows on Alt.com, which is part of FriendFinder Networks, a group of adult entertainment websites that purportedly has over 365 million members and is owned by Penthouse Media Group.
The shoots occurred over a period of several days at Marcus' studios in Hollywood. Marcus later sold some of the photos to Taboo; others were available in a subscription area of his website.
Marcus also filmed the pair for his site. The video clip includes a brief moment where Marcus interviewed Bagley and the woman following a lengthy bondage session.
"Is this your first time being in Hollywood and doing videos?" Marcus asked the woman.
"Yes sir," she responded in a childlike voice.
"Is this your last time being in Hollywood and doing videos?" Marcus asked.
"I hope not," the woman answered with Bagley standing close beside her.
Marcus said he didn't notice anything unusual about Bagley and the woman during the photo session.
"They actually seemed to be quite a lovely couple … if anything he was going out of his way to make sure she was as happy as possible. I was very shocked to see the government had any issue with them at all," Marcus told TheWrap.
Prosecutors have described the woman as mentally disabled and said that Bagley threatened her with guns and physical torture when she attempted to escape or stop the violent bondage sessions. Although he said he met the couple only briefly and "may have very well been mistaken," Marcus told TheWrap that he saw no sign the woman was forced, coerced or mentally disabled.
"They say she was of diminished mental capacity, we never saw that whatsoever. She seemed to be bright, intelligent and in control, able to say 'yes' and 'no,'" Marcus said.
Marcus said he was interviewed by the FBI a few months ago in conjunction with the case.
"I have been interviewed and cooperated, and gave whatever information and documentation … I don't know whether they are planning on calling me as a witness or not," he said.
Marcus also said that the FBI interviewed Taboo executive editor Ira Levine, the author of several books and husband to famous porn actress Nina Hartley. Levine could not immediately be reached by TheWrap.
Though they may be called as witnesses, neither Marcus nor the editors of Taboo appear to be in danger of criminal charges — as long as they maintain that they had no indication the woman was anything other than a fully consenting adult. However, all parties involved could be vulnerable to civil action should the woman decide to press charges.
And the situation probably won't result in legal action for Marcus or Larry Flynt Publishing Inc. — but it certainly raises fresh questions about the ethics and practices surrounding hardcore, violent porn publishing.
And Flynt is certainly well-prepared to face those types of questions. The self-proclaimed "free speech activist" has spent much of the more than 36 years that he's put out the Hustler magazines fighting court cases and public relations battles relating to the publication of pornography.
As of this writing, Flynt — whose operations include mainstream magazines, broadcasting ventures, a digital group, retail stores and a casino — has not responded to requests for a comment.