SCOTUS Agrees to Hear 'S&M Svengali' Case

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday agreed to hear a case involving a man whose 2007 conviction for violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 was overturned last year by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that the federal law was enacted after the acts for he was convicted took place.

Glenn Marcus—dubbed the “S&M Svengali”—was originally sentenced to nine years in prison for abusing a woman he photographed for his website,, which apparently catered to the BDSM community. The site was shut down by the U.S. Department of Justice in May 2007. reported in the past that relied on a novel business model that involved finding sex slaves on the Internet, tying them up, whipping them, and posting online photographs of the process. Membership to started at $20 for 30 days of access.

“In 1998,” the story read, “a woman named Jodi (referred to in court documents by her first name only) began researching 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 regularly visited them from his home on Long Island. Occasionally the BDSM/sex sessions became severe: Marcus once burned Jodi with cigarettes all over her body. He put a Whiffle ball in her mouth and tried to sew her lips shut with surgical needles. Other encounters were too graphic to be described fully to the media.”

In 2001, Jodi became estranged from Marcus but felt unable to break free out of fear he might harm her, and admitted in testimony that she stayed with him throughout 2003 and even went camping with him at one point. After he refused to remove images of her from the site, however, she finally contacted the FBI and he was arrested and charged with sex trafficking, forced labor, and dissemination of obscene materials through an interactive computer service.

Despite Marcus’ claim that all the acts between he and Jodi were consensual and that he had appropriate model releases giving him the right to post content to his site, after eight days of deliberation by a jury he was convicted according to provisions in TVPA.

As Tristan Taormino reported in the Village Voice in 2007, “What is clear is that the relationship began as consensual but, for Jodi, at some point this changed. 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. The relationship was even thornier because it was entwined with a for-profit business. … Furthermore, he tasked her with working on technical aspects of the site and considered that part of her service to him as a slave, so he didn't pay her. (Sources I spoke to said they both lived off the site's profits.) We may never know the whole truth of this he-say-she-says story, but jurors determined that Marcus crossed the line.”

In an August 2008 ruling, however, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals vacated his convictions on the basis that the lower court had erred in failing to instruct the jury with respect to the date of the enactment of the TVPA. The appeals court was bound by precedent, though, and concluded, “We believe that our precedent warrants reexamination.”

The government appealed to the high court and yesterday was granted cert. The case is U.S. v. Marcus (08-1341).