Couple convicted for enslaving disabled woman

2014-07-25 12:01
Jessica Hunt. (File, AP)

Jessica Hunt. (File, AP)

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Youngstown - A woman convicted along with her boyfriend of enslaving a mentally disabled woman in their Ohio home for nearly two years through intimidation, threats and abuse was sentenced Thursday to 32 years in federal prison, the US attorney's office said.

Jessica Hunt, aged 33, was convicted in March of forced labour, conspiracy to defraud the US and conspiracy to illegally obtain prescription drugs.

Her attorneys and the federal prosecutor's office didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the sentencing.

Hunt's boyfriend, 28-year-old Jordie Callahan, was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 years in federal prison for those same charges.

"This is one of the more disturbing cases we have come across," US Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in a statement. "These defendants richly deserve their sentences."

Death threats, drug abuse

The couple was accused of holding the woman captive from early 2011 to late 2012. Prosecutors alleged that they threatened to harm the woman's young daughter if the woman did not do chores, shop and clean up after their pit bull dogs.

The couple also used the dogs and a python to threaten the woman into complying, prosecutors said.

The couple's attorneys have argued that government witnesses were unreliable, including the victim in the case, who suffers from the effects of a traumatic brain injury suffered in a car accident.

The woman had numerous opportunities to tell people she was being mistreated, including appointments at social service agencies, attorneys for Hunt and Callahan have said.

After the woman was caught stealing a candy bar in late 2012, she told police she wanted to go to jail because people were being mean to her. Prosecutors say the couple lured her into the home knowing she received government assistance.

Prosecutors alleged that Callahan had sex with the woman and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. The couple also were accused of injuring the woman and forcing her to go to the emergency room so they could take any painkillers that would be prescribed to her, trial testimony and documents showed.

Two more people were convicted in the case for helping the couple enslave the woman. They pleaded guilty and agreed to testify at the trial. Dezerah McGuire, aged 33, formerly Dezerah Silsby, received a 45-month prison sentence in April. Her boyfriend, Daniel Brown, aged 35, received a five-year sentence in March.

- AP
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