LARGO — Jurors watched a 10-minute video on Wednesday of a woman kicking and punching a schizophrenic, mentally disabled man — and telling him to kiss her feet afterward.
After they saw the video with the man's repeated grunts and moans, they also listened to the producer testify that the whole thing was for show.
Jeffery Williams, the man behind shefights.net and other websites, testified in court the many videos he helps create amount to a "depiction of fantasy."
In a professorial tone, the 61-year-old Williams said his videos appeal to masochistic men who want to watch scenes showing guys getting beaten.
That doesn't mean people are getting seriously injured, he said.
"We proclaim that we're the most violent in the industry … but the truth is it's mostly acting," Williams said.
He said he was a dissertation away from a doctorate and used to work in finance, but instead fell into "the industry" of producing sadomasochistic movies in the Tampa Bay area. He has been in the Pinellas County Jail for months, apparently unable to post bond.
The man who was getting hit in the video, James Cayer Jr., also testified Wednesday, and said those blows really hurt.
Today the jury will get to decide whether the video was esoteric fantasy or brutal reality.
Williams and Zuzu Vargo, 27, are both on trial on a felony charge of aggravated abuse of a disabled adult.
The case drew national attention in 2011 when advocates complained that purveyors of shefights.net and other websites were rounding up homeless men in St. Petersburg and filming them as they were beaten.
In the video that was played in court Wednesday, Cayer was wearing shorts but no shirt. Vargo moved about the boxing ring in pink zebra-striped shorts and a black sports bra, kicking and punching.
She kneed him in the stomach and kicked him in the face. At some points, he fell to the ground, and she punched his ribs. When he lowered his arms to protect his chest, she punched his face. When he covered his face, she jabbed his ribs again.
She asked him to kiss each of her feet, and he did.
Before showing the video, Assistant State Attorney Susan St. John noted there was a television camera in the courtroom and said it might be illegal to disseminate the video outside the courtroom. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Keith Meyer said he was not going to issue any restriction to the media.
Although Williams testified the video violence was mostly acting, he did acknowledge producing a couple of videos in which people were flogged until they had open lash marks on their backs. Those men volunteered and would have gotten flogged somewhere else anyway, Williams maintained.
John Clarence Guthrie, a man who has been beaten in dozens of videos and said he enjoys the experience, testified in Williams' defense. He said he or anyone else in the video can always say they want the action to stop.
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After his testimony and outside of court, Guthrie said he is hoping for the best for Williams. "I hope he gets back out and we can get back to work."
The state and defense rested their cases Wednesday and are expected to deliver closing arguments today.