Deadly consent: Bondage death raises legal issues

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After reading this news article do you think . . .

the Dom in this article was clearly responsible for the death of the sub
89
53%
the Dom in this article was irresponsibly complicit in the death of his sub
38
23%
the Dom in this article was negligent but not really responsible for his sub's death
10
6%
both were responsibly complicit because of poor planing and execution
28
17%
it was all the sub's fault for trusting his life with an arrogant ass hole
2
1%
 
Total votes: 167

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LoRee
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Deadly consent: Bondage death raises legal issues

Post by LoRee »

This story came up on CNN this evening. I know this isn't exactly self bondage, however, like curious_sb's post about UK sex law, I believe merits consideration & discussion.



LYNN, Massachusetts (AP) -- Adrian Exley was wrapped tightly in heavy plastic, then bound with duct tape. A leather hood was put over his head with a thin plastic straw inserted so that he could breathe, and he was shut up in a closet.

That, apparently, was the way Exley liked it. But the way it ended -- with Exley suffocating -- was not what he had in mind when he traveled from Britain for a bondage session with a man he had met through a sadomasochism Web site.

Exley's body was discovered in the woods last year, two months after he was bound up in the bondage "playroom" Gary LeBlanc had built in the basement of his suburban Boston home.

LeBlanc, a 48-year-old Gulf Oil sales executive, detailed his responsibility in the fatal bondage session in a five-page suicide note, just before he put a gun to his head and killed himself.

Now the question is: Since Exley consented to the sex play, can LeBlanc be held responsible for his death?

Exley's family is suing LeBlanc's estate for unspecified damages, claiming wrongful death. Many bondage enthusiasts are watching the case closely, seeing it as a lesson in where to draw the line of responsibility on consensual but dangerous sex.

"There's definitely the whole spectrum of thought on what really happened -- whether it was a consent issue, or negligence or misunderstanding," said Vivienne Kramer, a board member of the New England Leather Alliance. "Everybody has their own ideas on what should have happened."

Exley and LeBlanc met through an online forum for gay men into rubber, leather and bondage. Exley, a 32-year-old stripper, used the screen name "Studpup," while LeBlanc called himself "Rubrman" and built a chamber with rubber mats on the floors and walls, chains, leather restraints, rubber suits and a hospital gurney.

Exley arrived at LeBlanc's house in Lynn in April 2006 after the pair had exchanged e-mails in which they discussed plans for LeBlanc to play the "master" and Exley his "slave," according to the lawsuit.

John Andrews, a lawyer for LeBlanc's estate, said Exley knew the risks going in. "What occurred was an act or actions between two consenting adults, both of whom knew what they were doing, and it had a tragic end," he said.

The lawsuit describes a three-day bondage and discipline session that ended when a third man, Scott Vincent, discovered Exley was not breathing. Exley had been put in a closet while bound in plastic up to his neck and left alone for several hours, according to the lawsuit.

In his suicide note, LeBlanc admitted that Exley at one point had trouble breathing. But he said that after "cooling him down," Exley improved. LeBlanc said that he went to sleep about 3 a.m. but was woken up a few hours later by Vincent, who told him Exley was not breathing and was turning blue and cold.

LeBlanc said he panicked, and he and Vincent drove to Rhode Island, where they buried the body and threw away Exley's clothing and identification.

The Rhode Island medical examiner determined that Exley suffocated. Vincent said in a sworn statement that the straw had fallen out of his mouth in the closet.

Vincent, a flight attendant who is also being sued, is charged with failure to report a death in Rhode Island. But he has not been charged in Massachusetts.

In his note, LeBlanc said he was "responsible for a horrible tragedy," adding: "Had I dealt with the first crisis responsibly, he would likely have returned home safely."

Lawyers for Exley's estate acknowledge that Exley wanted to participate in a bondage session, but say he did not know about LeBlanc's reputation as an "extreme edge player" in the world of bondage and sadomasochism.

"Just because you are agreeing that you will allow someone to tie you up temporarily as part of role-playing doesn't mean that you are consenting to be killed or to be left alone or to be abused," attorney Randy Chapman said.

Several people who came forward after Exley's death told police that LeBlanc had restrained them and left them alone for long periods, or ignored their requests that he curtail a bondage session.

Both actions go against the bondage protocols, which say participants must stop if their partner uses a prearranged "safe word" or "safe signal" and must not leave anyone who is bound alone, said Susan Wright, a spokeswoman for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

Brian Plant, a bondage and sadomasochism practitioner from Kansas, said: "Nobody goes into these things saying, `Oh, well, I'm going to die because of it.' You reach a point when the line is crossed, and it is no longer consensual."

Kathy Jo Cook, a lawyer who specializes in wrongful death cases, said that when you take away the sensational details of the Exley case, the claim being made by Exley's estate is the same made in many other wrongful death cases.

"The law says if a person causes the death of another person by an act which is either negligent or reckless, that person is liable," Cook said. "You have a duty to behave reasonably. I think it's the same thing here, albeit a very strange set of facts."

It was Exley's mother, Maggie Horner, who decided to sue LeBlanc's estate.

"We decided that we didn't want Gary's last wishes being granted when Adrian's couldn't be," she said. "Why should Gary be able to kill my son, bury my son, shoot himself and still get his own way?"

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press
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Post by misQui »

I think in any bondage-type situation, the dom is taking responsibility for the welfare of the sub and therefore it is by his negligence that the death was caused. Like they say in the article, what they call "bondage protocol" clearly dictates that you should never leave someone alone while bound. We all know it happens because a lot of people like to be left alone while bound, but you have to at least check on them regularly and consider the extent to which they are bound when making these checks. In this situation, the simple accidental dropping of the breathing straw was enough to cause death by suffocation. That danger should have been identified and, in this case, the sub should not have been left alone at all.
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Post by curious_sb »

I think that was really sad, I think the Dom was negligent and should be held accountable for the sub's death, I also believe the sub was crazy - ever heard the phrase never met up with anyone you talk to on the internet? Especially for bondage games like that where you are basically entrusting your life to a 'net goon.
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Post by goddessloviatar »

This is of interest to me as I recently had the opportunity to indulge in real S&M play for the first time. I came home from the experience with quite substantial bruising on my backside - at the time the "treatment" was administered I was wearing a spandex catsuit so the state of my backside was not apparent to either party.
The first I time I saw what this awesome Lady had done to me was in the toilet on the train home - I was quite surprised at the state my butt was in.
I think the problem here is that I was trying to impress her with my pain threshold, but nonetheless when it became too much I begged for mercy and she stopped. I think that most subs have the same need to impress as I have, but there is also a responsibility for the domme to recognise when any more is unhealthy.
The way I see things is that if the domme considers the sub to be their "property" then they should care about that property. I can easily see myself in a situation where I might be left bound for some time, but I would certainly expect to be checked on from time to time.
The phrase I have always kept in mind is "safe, sane, consensual" and whilst I will admit to testing the boundaries of this I certainly do not want to be killed.
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Post by anode505 »

The dom was a muttonhead. Not checking on someone in that situation was just poor judgment. Fry the bastard.
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Post by Toszum »

While being a bondage enthusiast I never the less have to consent with anode 505.
The dom - if he hadn't killed himself - should have been charged with manslaughter through culpable negligence.

Since during the fatal incident the dom and the victim will have been alone the consent of the victim can not be proven anymore.
Therefore the whole act should be considered as a violation of inalianable rights.
I think that the dom should have been fully charged without taking into account any sort of extenuating circumstances.
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Post by anna »

It was a very tragic accident and I do think that the dom was responsible for the death. This was two sad and highly unnecessary deaths that could have been easily avoided. :(
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Post by puppydogbytes »

I knew Exley (Chip) and played with him myself a few times at parties in London.

I doubt very much whether he had ever had or used a safe word in his life. I heard that they had consumed quite a lot of MDMA at the time of his death (although it's not mentioned in the news story) which could well have been a factor also. Certainly he had a huge appetite for pills....

At several parties I was at Chip spent the night hooded, gagged and bound - I don't think there is any question of his consent in this, it's what he liked.

LeBlanc behaved irresponsibly and was obviously negligent but it was a tragic accident not a homicide, LeBlanc knew he was responsible and it was the guilt and shame that drove him to kill himself.

So far as disposing of the body is concerned, that's a little harder to understand or forgive although I'm sure he must have been in a state of complete panic and very probably not in rational state of mind.

I was told that the third party Scott Vincent also later attempted suicide by taking an overdose but was revived.

It's fair enough that the family are suing the estate as they could if the death were caused by any other sort of negligence.

It's really a terrible thing though for all concerned, not least the families of the dead men - my heart goes out to all of them....
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Post by LoRee »

OK I also feel the Dom in question was at fault for simply NOT taking seemingly common sense precaution to keep his charge from suffocating.

As for this ridiculous notion of "Bondage Protocol" dictating that you should never leave someone alone while bound. Hello! Show of hands, how many of you have engaged in self bondage without violating this particular protocol? Um Hum, that's what I thought. So much for protocol. Being a avid enthusiast of cling film mummification & closeting, I have yet to see how it is possible (either as closetor or closetee) to NOT leave someone in a closet alone. especially considering some of the coffins that passed for closets that I've been shoved into.

Not withstanding, the Dom in question should have secured his subs air way better than he did. This also clearly demonstrates that even if someone advertises as a "Pro Dom/Domme", caveat emptor; let the sub beware, or at the very least weary.
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Post by misQui »

The consumption of MDMA is likely to have been a factor. I like to indulge from time to time and it can make it difficult to concentrate properly and if you have enough (or too much, depending on how you look at it) you can lose your concept of time to a degree. I was at a birthday party recently where I went to the toilet, parked myself on the throne, then the whole room just went white, I couldn't tell what was wall and what was door and I had a sort of 'rushing' sensation in my head (impossible to describe to non-users, I'm afraid). It wasn't scary; just weird and strangely enjoyable. But then there was a knock on the door and my friend asked if I was alright. That brought me back to reality so I sorted myself out and went into the living room. Apparently I'd been in there for about 15 minutes!

Additionally, I had a play partner a few years ago who also liked an occasional pill and there were nights when we'd have a few bottles of wine, 5 or 6 pills each then snort a gram of coke and smoke some weed. Looking back, it was quite alarming the amount of drugs we could get through in a night. Needless to say this affects the way your body reacts to stuff and its potentially possible to misjudge the damage you could be doing to your body. For example, I would enjoy much tighter and more restrictive ties when off my face than when sober and sometimes woke up the next morning somewhat sorer than I had predicted.

As with previous responses, the "rules" clearly dictate that leaving people alone while bound is not good, and the same applies to playing while under the influence, but like Loree says, we all know it happens all the time. You just have to be aware of the additional dangers and attempt to minimise risk.
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Post by puppydogbytes »

misQui wrote:there were nights when we'd have a few bottles of wine, 5 or 6 pills each then snort a gram of coke and smoke some weed.
A few years ago when I was 'on the scene' I used to organise fetish/play parties in London. I'd say that those kind of quantities were pretty much the norm for most of the crowd. Ketamine was also used a lot and that really does remove you from reality and also GHB although that's now been banned in the UK.

Playing when you're on drugs inherently increases the risks both because the sub is not aware of their limits and because the top is less responsible, less in control of their actions and can sometimes even pass out while the sub is still restrained. MDMA in particular can increase the likelihood of overheating and dehydration especially where mummification etc. is involved.

I am not longer part of that scene, the drugs were one (of many) reasons why I decided I'd had enough....
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Post by bound_jenny »

The Dom is clearly responsible through negligence. Leaving someone alone and unattended, unmonitored in that kind of situation, with only a straw to breathe through, is abominable negligence.

I would never, ever put myself in that kind of situation in SB, let alone have someone do it to me and just leave me alone without monitoring my health.

That Dom has obviously not taken his responsibility toward the sub seriously.
It goes to say that with power comes responsibility.

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Post by bdbgum »

curious_sb wrote:I think that was really sad, I think the Dom was negligent and should be held accountable for the sub's death, I also believe the sub was crazy - ever heard the phrase never met up with anyone you talk to on the internet? Especially for bondage games like that where you are basically entrusting your life to a 'net goon.
This was the word that came to my mind: neglect. No malice present, both parties agreed. In my opinion, the master falls more blame, since a sub can be blinded by desire. This is why a master should always keep a level head. His most important task is to keep the sub safe.

The sub himself was foolish to get into this situation. Still, subs do foolish things if they happen to get a kick from it...

I can understand the thrill of knowing the master/mistress is away so you are going to be bound a LONG time, but for such dangerous situations... seems they misjudged or ignored the danger.

Yes it is really tragic... none of them wanted this outcome. Still, I'm glad this was posted on the board, since it does make you think.
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Post by Grinser »

Darkelve wrote:
curious_sb wrote: I can understand the thrill of knowing the master/mistress is away so you are going to be bound a LONG time
Well, the sub does not necessarily have to know the dom is NOT away... just put a blindfold on them and keep an eye on them without giving your presence away and the sub will never know he/she is being monitored. You could even install a webcam or the like and watch from another room.
And then of course there are restraints you can leave someone alone in and there are some you just can`t. Everything that is not suited for selfbondage is also not suited for left-alone subs, including breath inhibiting situations and (most) suspensions for example.
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Post by JKremis »

Toszum wrote:Since during the fatal incident the dom and the victim will have been alone the consent of the victim can not be proven anymore.
Therefore the whole act should be considered as a violation of inalianable rights.
it happened here in the states tho and that (should or is supposed to) mean "innocent until proven guilty" and not the other way around. no evidence means no charges.

now obviously the body and all that is evidence, but theres no evidence FOR or AGAINST consent, according to your post, which makes the man not guilty on that specific charge.
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