A Lebanon, Mo., man accused of sexually torturing a young woman for years admitted Tuesday that he groomed her for a life of bondage and sadomasochism.
Edward Bagley Sr., 45, agreed with prosecutors to serve a 20-year prison sentence.
His guilty plea to using the Internet to entice a minor for illegal sex eliminated the need for a trial, which was to begin next month. In his plea agreement, Bagley admitted that the government could prove he had subjected the woman to harsh treatment for years.
In return for the plea and Bagley’s agreement to a long prison term, prosecutors agreed to drop other serious charges, including counts alleging conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor trafficking and document servitude. The agreement also spares Bagley’s young victim from having to testify at trial, though she can speak at sentencing if she chooses.
U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a written statement that Bagley’s plea brought “closure to a shocking and horrific case.”
“Six defendants now have been brought to justice for their roles in the brutal sexual torture and enslavement of a young woman who was just a teenager when the victimization began,” Dickinson said.
Defense lawyer Susan Dill noted, however, that her client pleaded guilty only to a narrow violation.
“My client did not sexually torture or enslave anyone, nor did he plead guilty to a charge based on that,” Dill said.
U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple said he would delay formally accepting the plea agreement and binding 20-year sentence until after the court’s probation office prepares a pre-sentencing report.
The plea capped more than two years of hard-fought legal maneuvering.
“What is your plea, guilty or not guilty?” Whipple asked.
“Guilty, your honor.”
He also acknowledged knowingly inducing his victim to engage in prostitution and other sexual activity while a minor.
Prosecutors accused Bagley in September 2010 of abusing his victim for much of the previous decade. Prosecutors at the time called the allegations “among the most horrific ever prosecuted” in western Missouri federal court.
The case came to light in February 2009, when paramedics flew a 23-year-old woman to a hospital after Bagley shocked and nearly suffocated her during a torture session. As she recovered from a heart attack, federal investigators pieced together her story.
According to court records, Bagley met her when she was 16 and dating his son. He learned that she had grown up in foster care, had suffered emotional and sexual abuse, and had suffered a traumatic head injury. She also had “mental deficiencies,” prosecutors said.
Bagley gave her drugs, showed her Internet pornography, and taught her about bondage and sadomasochistic sex, court records said. And the two began a sexual relationship before her 17th birthday.
She joined the Bagley household in 2003 amid promises of her own room, clothes and “a great life.”
Just after the girl’s 18th birthday, in February 2004, Bagley had her sign a “sex slavery contract,” which he contended legally bound her to him forever, according to the initial charges. Bagley also marked her as his property by having her tattooed with a bar code on her neck, an “S” on her back and the Chinese symbol for slave on her ankle.
For the next several years, Bagley committed sadomasochistic acts on her using techniques that prosecutors have described as “flogging, whipping, shocking, choking, piercing” and “sewing.”
Bagley photographed and videotaped many of the sessions.
Defense lawyers have contended that the relationship between Bagley and the young woman was consensual and part of a bondage, domination and sadomasochism lifestyle.
Bagley’s five co-defendants, including his wife, pleaded guilty previously, each admitting that he or she contributed to the scheme to enslave the victim.
James Noel of Springfield acknowledged using electricity to shock her, even though he knew she hated it.
Dennis Henry of Wheatland, Mo., admitted that he had sex with her and drove to California with Bagley and the victim in 2006 for a pornographic photo shoot. He said in his plea agreement that the woman “melted” when she realized that she might have to sustain shocks from a crank telephone that Bagley had brought.
Bradley Cook of Kirkwood, Mo., confessed to watching Bagley torture the woman and participating in the abuse himself. He also admitted that he advised Bagley on how to make money off the victim by selling images of her torture online.
Michael Stokes of Lebanon recounted how he visited the Bagley home up to a dozen times to have sex with the woman or participate in the abuse. He also paid Bagley to participate, once with $300, and at other times with steaks, cigarettes, coats, personalized playing cards and lighters.
Stokes also admitted that he gave Bagley money to construct a motorized machine to which the woman was strapped and then sodomized for hours at a time.
The prospect that Bagley could sustain an argument that his victim had consented to the conduct began to look questionable in December when his wife, Marilyn Bagley, pleaded guilty, acknowledging that she helped prepare the woman for life as a sex slave.
For a time, Bagley’s lawyers had hoped to present evidence that the conduct outlined in the allegations could be considered well within boundaries of the legal bondage, domination and sadomasochism lifestyle. But a judge recently limited anticipated testimony from experts to a general description of the lifestyle without commenting on whether the conduct alleged in Bagley’s case conformed to it.