Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Website operator who paid homeless men to get beat up by women goes on trial

LARGO — He was 36, mentally disabled, schizophrenic, off his medicine and confused.

So confused that after he left his group home in Clearwater one day and wound up in Williams Park in St. Petersburg, he couldn't find his way back home.

For two months.

And that, prosecutors said Tuesday at the start of a trial in a case that has previously gained national attention, was when James Cayer Jr. became a victim.

Assistant State Attorney Kendall Davidson accused two people of luring the vulnerable Cayer to a Clearwater business called Ringside Studios, where he was filmed in videos for a website that featured scenes of women beating up men.

Davidson said the two, Jeffery Williams, 61, and Zuzu Vargo, 27, should be found guilty of aggravated abuse of a disabled person, a felony.

"His business involved hiring people to be beaten by women, women such as Zuzu Vargo," Davidson said, pointing at Williams. "These men weren't allowed to fight back."

Davidson said the way Cayer was beaten amounted to torture.

"They took a man who was clearly disabled, put him in a ring, told him you can't fight back, and proceeded to kick and punch and beat him down on the ground, and continued to kick him while he was down," he said.

Cayer's mother testified on Tuesday and said she was aghast when she later saw her son with two black eyes and many bruises.

But Williams' defense attorney Luke Lirot told the jury there's a lot more to the story.

Williams never knew of Cayer's disability, he said. It wasn't Williams who invited Cayer into the business, but someone else. Cayer signed a liability waiver saying he was "volunteering to participate in video production activities including fighting and other dangerous and possibly violent activities."

Also, when he got to Ringside Studios, Cayer saw other men being filmed for the same kinds of videos. "He could have left at any time he wanted," Lirot said.

Even then, he said, a lot of the fighting was staged, with punches that didn't actually connect.

Jurors will have a chance to make up their own minds — they are expected to see the video in court today.

The case drew nationwide publicity in 2011 after advocates accused the operators of shefights.net of preying on St. Petersburg's homeless.

In a separate civil case, Williams testified that all the people who appeared in the videos did so voluntarily, and that some of them even liked the experience. He said some men may have been homeless, but that there was no intent to target homeless people.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or ckrueger@tampabay.com. On Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

Website operator who paid homeless men to get beat up by women goes on trial 12/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 10:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

     Winner of the week

    Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  3. Storm routs Cleveland

    Storm

    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  4. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  5. Rowdies shut out Charleston

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.