By Jim Kouri
Michael Stokes of Lebanon, Missouri, pleaded guilty in a Kansas City, MO, federal courtroom on Thursday to his role in the sex trafficking of a young, mentally deficient woman who was coerced into being a sex slave for several years while she was mercilessly tortured and physically abused in a trailer home located in a wooded area in Lebanon.
Stokes, also known as “The Rodent,” pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple to his role in a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. Stokes’ guilty plea today marks the fourth and final customer in this case to be convicted under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
The 63-year old Stokes became familiar with the unidentified female victim (FV) in 2006 when he received pictures of her over the Internet in which she was naked with whip marks on her body. Stokes was told that the victim was a slave for “life” who was tortured for hours at a time and was required to do “everything and anything” she was told.
After a few weeks of chatting online, the plea agreement says, a co-conspirator brought the victim to Stokes’ house so she could perform a “demo” for him. When they arrived at Stokes’ residence, bringing a duffle bag of torture devices with them, FV was instructed to “put on a show for us.” FV was naked, wearing only dog collars and ankle collars with locks. Stokes was asked whether he wanted to have sex with her. Stokes said “yes” and he had sex with FV.
Stokes was stunned that “someone had that much control over someone” and “had never seen anything like it.”
Stokes began visiting the residence where FV was being held. During his first visit, he was shown a photo of FV’s vaginal opening sewn shut and told this was done to demonstrate “what was expected of her.” FV was present for these statements and remained silent. FV never talked back or spoke up. FV never offered herself to Stokes and only acted on command.
It was obvious that FV was undereducated and had slower mental functioning. Stokes believed she had the educational level of a 13-year-old. FV did not have the normal skills of a 20-year-old woman.
Stokes visited the residence eight to 12 times. During these visits, he would receive sexual acts or be allowed to watch or participate in torturing FV. When he visited he brought steaks, hamburgers, jackets, personalized playing cards, lighters, cigarettes, and cash. Among other things, he witnessed FV being tortured with a crank phone, with electricity shot through devices clamped to her vaginal and anal openings.
Stokes began assisting in promoting FV at the strip clubs. Stokes took photos of FV around to the clubs to promote her there. Stokes gave $1,000 so that FV could be taken for a sexual bondage photo shoot in California for Taboo magazine. Stokes then took a copy of the magazine to promote her at the clubs. The photos in Taboo magazine were extremely mild and did not depict any of the cruel sessions Stokes had witnessed at the residence.
In 2009, Stokes was warned that there was an FBI investigation involving his conduct with FV. Stokes went on his computer and deleted hundreds of photos, his contacts with other females online, pictures of FV that he saved, and destroyed his copies of Taboo magazine and the sexual devices that he had acquired.
Under federal statutes, Stokes is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution.
Stokes is the fourth defendant in this human trafficking case to plead guilty.
His co-defendant, Bradley Cook, also known as PutHer2GoodUse, 33, of Kirkwood, pleaded guilty on December 20, 2011, to his role in a conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion.
From 2006 to 2009, Cook watched the victim being sexually abused and tortured in live online sessions and as depicted in photos and videos that he downloaded from the Internet. Cook admitted that he traveled to Lebanon on multiple occasions during that time to engage in sessions of sexual acts and torture with the victim. In exchange, Cook paid the victim’s master for these sessions with such items as computer hard drives that contained images and videos of bondage, domination, sadism and masochism, which he had downloaded from the Internet.
Cook also admitted he was aware of other men who engaged in sexual acts and torture with the victim. He witnessed the victim being whipped and locked in a dog cage, as well as being tied up and shocked with multiple electrical devices. Cook described the abuse suffered by the victim as the most extreme he had ever seen.
In a binding plea agreement, the government and Cook jointly recommend to the court a set sentence of 20 years in federal prison without parole. Cook must also pay restitution to the victim. In addition to the sentence of imprisonment, the court may impose a term of supervised release up to life. Cook must also forfeit to the government the computer media he used to commit the offense.
Co-defendant Dennis Henry, 51, of Wheatland, formerly the postmaster of Nevada, Mo., pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion. Henry also pleaded guilty to transporting the victim across state lines for sexual activity.
Henry admitted that he engaged in sex with the victim, and participated in torture sessions with FV that would last for hours. Henry saw pictures of FV’s vagina sewn shut, which he was told was a form of punishment. Henry also admitted that he visited FV at a Lebanon strip club where she was forced to work.
Under federal statutes, Henry is subject to a sentence of up to 15 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $500,000 and an order of restitution.
Co-defendant James Noel, 45, of Springfield, also pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. Noel admitted that he was one of the customers who sexually abused and tortured FV. Noel watched the victim being tortured and sometimes operated torture devices himself beginning in 2006, when she was approximately 20 years old.
For example, Noel knew that FV hated being electrocuted with a crank phone (which was wired inside FV’s vaginal and anal openings and to her toes), which he described as extremely painful, but he used it on her anyway.
Under federal statutes, Noel is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution.
Police officer and citizen groups believe that the punishment meted out to the defendants is highly lacking in severity considering the nature of their crimes.