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Susan Abram reports on www.daily news.com – In a case believed to be the first of its kind for Los Angeles, an adult film actor was sentenced to 30 days in jail for knowingly exposing at least two co-stars to syphilis after testing positive for the disease days earlier, the City Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Jesse Spencer, 42, who works in the adult film industry as “Mr. Marcus,” pleaded no contest to one count of exposing another to a communicable disease. He was originally charged with four counts total, including unlawful touching, said Los Angeles Deputy City Attorney Diego Edber.
In addition to 30 days in jail, Spencer also was sentenced to 36 months probation and 15 days of community labor. He has been in police custody since May 22 following a separate DUI arrest, Edber said.
“I’ve asked everyone in the office, and we’ve never had a case like this,” Edber said. “We had no cases (to refer to) exactly on point with this.”
Edber said that Spencer tested positive for syphilis last summer and received a penicillin shot on July 13, 2012. He tested positive for the sexually transmitted disease during a second screening on July 21.
Spencer, an 18-year veteran of the industry, then participated in two adult movie shoots on July 24 and July 26, engaging in various sex acts while continuing to test positive for syphilis. Authorities say he altered a photocopy of his test results that he showed to the film producer before shooting.
Later, the producer noticed that something appeared off about the photocopy, and he and two actresses who worked with Spencer filed a police report, Edber said.
None of the actresses contracted syphilis as a result of exposure to Spencer, Edber said.
Spencer’s attorney, Martin Cutler, argued that proves his client was no longer contagious and that he waited the right amount of time before performing.
Cutler said the case received more attention because of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s concerns with Measure B, which mandates that all adult film actors wear condoms during filming within county limits. Trutanich, concerned about lawsuits, had said only the state and not the city can regulate condom use in porn. A state bill is currently on hold.
“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.”
was tested a second time, the results showed he carried the disease but was not contagious, Cutler said. He also disputes the prosecutor’s account, saying his client did not perform on July 26, but waited until Aug. 7.
A separate civil lawsuit against Spencer is pending from a third actress who said she was exposed when she filmed with him in June.
For years, the adult film industry has relied on self-regulation. Porn actors test for sexually transmitted diseases every 15 to 30 days and they say it works well. Once an actor has completed testing, his or her name is entered into a confidential database, viewed only by actors, producers and directors on sets.
But in an interview last year with Adult Video News, Spencer admitted he doctored his results.
Because of all the speculation, the Free Speech Coalition, the organization that represents the largely San Fernando Valley-based adult film industry, asked production companies nationwide to halt work until reports of a cluster of syphilis cases had been substantiated. The coalition then asked performers to test for the sexually transmitted disease as soon as possible.
Diane Duke, chief executive officer for the coalition, said she didn’t know enough about Spencer’s case to comment. But said “as a result of the increased rate of syphilis throughout the country, and the world, the adult film industry now requires syphilis testing with every monthly performer panel — protocols well above those recommended by the CDC.”
Syphilis is transmitted during sex through direct contact with a syphilis sore. It’s treatable, but symptoms may not be present for a while.
Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the organization that pressed for condoms in porn, said Spencer’s sentencing is in no way an example of the industry showing responsibility.
“This is not proof that the system works, because he was able to work with syphilis,” Weinstein said. “They got caught with their pants down, and they want to put the best face on it. We say testing is not prevention and obviously it doesn’t prevent performers from faking their results.”
Edber said he is uncertain any similar case would be tried again, but said for the porn industry to protect the health and safety of its performers, it is important they turn to law enforcement to remain compliant.
“I’m not sure we’re going to see more cases like this, but this is definitely a case where the industry policed themselves,” Edber said. “One thing we will do is aggressively prosecute these kinds of cases. We consider this case very serious. This is a big industry in the San Fernando Valley.”
Meanwhile, Spencer’s attorney said the actor is hoping to return to work.
“I think he could have been acquitted,” Cutler said. “He’s kind of been exiled. But he has a chance to redeem himself. Because all eyes are on him, he’ll be the cleanest guy in the industry.”