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Another Twist in Sex Trafficking Trial

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal prosecutor won’t present evidence at a sex trafficking trial that one of the defendants tried to hire a hit man to kill her.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Cordes claimed in January that Bradley Cook, 33, of St. Louis, tried to hire someone to kill her and the alleged sex trafficking victim while he was in federal custody in Leavenworth, Kan.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that evidence of the plot against Cordes could not be presented at trial unless the prosecutor removed herself from the case. However, the alleged plot against the victim can still be brought up at trial, U.S. Magistrate Robert Larsen said.

Cook is one of five men charged late last year with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. The charges involve a woman who said she moved into the rural Lebanon, Mo., trailer, of defendant Edward Bagley in 2002, when she was a teenager, and forced to be his sex slave.

Two of the defendants, Dennis Henry, of Wheatland, and James Noel, of Springfield, have pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge and face maximum prison sentences of five years and a $250,000 fine. Bagley, Cook and Michael Stokes, of Lebanon, have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors claim Ed Bagley gave a girl, whom they have described as mentally deficient, marijuana and ecstasy and sexually abused her while she was a minor.

Prosecutors also said that when the woman turned 18, Bagley started to sexually torture her and persuaded her to sign a “sex slave contract.” He tattooed her with a bar code on her neck, a tribal mark on her back with the letter “S” to mark her as a slave and the Chinese symbol for slave on her ankle, prosecutors claim.

The other four men were accused of offering cash, cigarettes, computer hard drives, meat and other items to Bagley so that they could be involved in torture sessions and sex acts with the woman. Henry and Stokes also are accused of paying for Bagley to take the woman to California in 2006 to perform sex acts during a photo shoot

In January, Cordes said in court documents the government became aware in November 2010 of a plot by Cook to have her and the victim murdered. Additional security measures were put in place to protect Cordes, and Cook was transferred from the Leavenworth detention center to a jail in Bates County, Mo.

The alleged plot came up as part of the prosecutor’s argument that Cook is dangerous and should not be released on bail. Cordes claimed in court documents that he knew things about her, including her schedule and where she lived.

Cook’s attorney, Carter Collins Law, fired back that Cordes had no proof of a murder-for-hire plot and should not have made the “poisonous” accusation in public documents.

On Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Larsen told Cordes she would have to take herself off the case if she wanted to present evidence a plot against her. Cordes filed a response later in the day saying she would continue to serve as lead counsel and would not present that evidence.

Bagley is scheduled to go to trial in February on charges of conspiracy, using the Internet to entice a minor to engage in illicit sex, enticement to travel for illicit sexual activity, transportation for illicit sexual activity, possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance to a person under the age of 21 and being a drug user in possession of firearms and ammunition.

In March, Bagley’s wife, Marilyn, was charged with conspiracy, sex trafficking, forced labor trafficking, document servitude and use of an interstate facility to facilitate unlawful activity.

Prior to her arrest, Marilyn Bagley told The Associated Press she was threatened with federal charges if she didn’t agree to testify against her husband, but she refused. The U.S. Attorney’s Office denied that threat was ever made, and Marilyn Bagley pleaded not guilty.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment about the case, while Cook’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call Thursday afternoon seeking comment.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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