Case taking some strange twists

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Defense attorneys are lashing out at federal prosecutors over court documents in a bizarre Missouri sex-slave torture case that include allegations one of the defendants tried to hire a hit man to kill the lead prosecutor and another bragged about torturing and killing two people over a drug debt.

Attorneys for lead defendant Edward Bagley Jr., 43, of Lebanon, and Bradley Cook, 32, of St. Louis, argue the additional allegations against their clients would have resulted in further charges or investigation had they been substantiated.

“The government’s attempt to proceed in this egregious, improper, and potentially intermedially prejudicial manner is without precedent or authority and should not be tolerated,” Cook’s attorney, Carter Collins Law, said in a response filed with the court.

Bagley and Cook are among five men charged with conspiring to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. Bagley is accused of taking in a mentally deficient woman as a teenager, then forcing her to perform in strip clubs and letting the other four defendants torture, mutilate and sexually abuse her.

One of the men, James Noel, 45, of Springfield, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is expected to testify at the trials of the other defendants, who remain held without bond.

Noel said in his plea agreement that Bagley had bragged about taking two people to an abandoned house where he tortured and killed them over a drug debt. The accusation came in the document’s “factual basis for guilty plea,” though Bagley has never been charged with killing anyone.

“My client did not kill anybody,” said Susan Dill, Bagley’s Kansas City-based attorney. “I don’t know of any factual allegation that my client killed somebody. If law enforcement thought he killed somebody, there would have been an investigation.”

Laclede County Sheriff’s Detective Robert Finley told The Associated Press he is not aware of any missing persons cases in that county connected to Bagley, and he said the FBI hasn’t shared with local authorities any suspicion that Bagley is a murderer.

The claim against Bagley came a few months after prosecutors accused Cook of attempting to hire a hit man to kill Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Cordes and the woman allegedly held as a sex slave.

“Cook obtained and attempted to provide the professional killer personal information about the victim’s location and details about undersigned counsel for the Government, including, but not limited to, Assistant United States Attorney Cordes’ family, children, residence, work hours and personal history,” Cordes said in a January document in which she argued against Cook’s release on bond.

Court records show additional security measures were put in place to protect Cordes, the woman in the case was placed in protective custody, and Cook was moved from confinement in Leavenworth, Kan., to a jail in Bates County, Mo.

Law said in her response to the claim that if prosecutors really were concerned Cook was trying to have people killed, they would have done more than move him to a different jail.

“I have no reason to believe those allegations about Brad are supported,“ she told the AP.

Cordes declined to comment for this story. But former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves, who hired Cordes while he was in office, said there may be good reasons why prosecutors haven’t filed charges against Cook on the murder-for-hire allegation.

“Number one, they could still be evaluating it,” he said. “Two, they may not have enough to charge a person with attempting to hire a hit man, but if you believe that’s what’s going on and you have the power to do something about it, you do it.”

The woman allegedly held by Bagley says she was repeatedly tortured at his trailer, about six miles outside of Lebanon, beginning when she was a teenager. Now 25, she says she was forced to dance at strip clubs and give all of her earnings to Bagley, or “Master Ed.”

The prosecution’s case has been complicated by a 2007 issue of Taboo magazine — a bondage-fetish publication owned by Larry Flynt’s Hustler Magazine Group — that featured the woman on the cover, a multi-page photo spread and an accompanying story. A dancer who worked with the woman at a southwest Missouri strip club has said she often bragged about the magazine cover and used the pictures to attract bigger tips.

Dill, Bagley’s attorney, has said evidence in the case will support claims that the woman voluntarily participated in bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism and could have left Bagley’s home at any time.

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