Pornographic performer Mr. Marcus, 42, will serve 30 days in a Los Angeles jail for his involvement in a 2012 syphilis outbreak that put a two-week moratorium on porn production. A judge sentenced Marcus – real name Jesse Spencer – for “knowingly exposing at least two co-stars to syphilis after testing positive for the disease days earlier.” Spencer will also serve three years on probation and perform 15 days of community service.
His syphilis infection was discovered July 13, 2012 during a standard screening. He was treated for the disease with penicillin, but was still infected on July 21. Spencer altered the results of the second test and participated in a pornographic shoot 12 days after being diagnosed. He participated in two separate shoots on July 24 and 26 according to the prosecutors.
More than a dozen performers tested positive for syphilis after Spencer, which led to his arrest and charges.
Spencer pleaded no contest to the charges. He is currently incarcerated for an unrelated DUI charge.
Martin Cutler, Spencer’s attorney, contends his client waited until he was no longer contagious to perform. He claims Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is punishing Spencer – an 18-year veteran of the porn industry – because of the passage of Measure B in the November elections. The bill mandates all adult-film actors wear condoms.
Culter also maintains his client’s innocence.
“Spencer ended up being the political football with the City Attorney’s Office and the adult film industry with regard to Measure B,” Cutler said. “(Spencer) didn’t willfully expose others, because once he learned he tested positive in mid-July, he went to his personal doctor, received a penicillin shot and waited the required 7 to 10 days before having sex. He was not contagious at the time.”
Trutanich disagrees. In a press statement, she said she’s concerned about the threat communicable diseases pose to all of Los Angeles, not just the performers in the San Fernando Valley.
“The potential spread of syphilis and other communicable diseases is a serious threat to our entire community,” she said. “My office will continue to hold accountable those who place the health and welfare of others in danger in such a reckless and thoughtless manner.”
The public may humor Spencer and his attorney’s explanation, but the former’s decision to knowingly-perform sex without regard for the health of his partners has wider implications. It reaffirms the importance of the Measure B bill – which is still in appeals court and has not been enacted – and also forces fellow performers to test monthly for syphilis.
Most Clutch readers are not professional porn actresses, but Spencer’s actions are still frightening. It proves men (and women) can doctor documents to make them appear STD-free. This is a notion that defies all we’ve been taught by the Surgeon General on how to avoid STDs and STIs.
More importantly, STDs are rampant in communities of color. The Centers for Disease Control found higher rates of reported STDs among racial and ethnic minorities due to lack of medical resources, more poverty and inefficient sexual education.
The rise in STDs has persuaded state governments to intervene. Several states – including Alabama, Florida and Hawaii – have passed laws criminalizing the transmission of some STDs. The penalties differ between states, but most of the perimeters are similar.
- Criminal transmission usually encompasses communicable STDs including HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea.
- The person infected with the STD must have intentionally, knowingly or recklessly transmitted it to be charged criminally.
- An informed consent exception has been enacted in several states. This is defined as “knowingly-engaging in sexual contact without fear of prosecution if they tell the other person about the presence of the disease.”
Penalties for criminal transmission range from probation and restitution to a life sentence, depending on the state and the severity of the infection poo. Some convicted of the criminal transmission of an STD have to register as sex offenders.
Mr. Marcus and the women he infected will heal, but all victims aren’t as fortunate. The criminalization of STDs is a viable step toward decreasing epidemics.