Man gets prison for enslaving 4 children

March 25, 2013 at 10:14 PM

YPSILANTI, Mich., March 25 (UPI) -- A judge in Michigan Monday sent a Ypsilanti man to federal prison for 11 1/4 years for enslaving four West African children in his home for years.

Jean-Claude Toviave, originally from Togo, showed no emotion and made no apology during his sentencing in U.S. District Court, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Authorities said Toviave used fake documents to bring the children into the United States and then kept them in his home, pretending they were his own children, the newspaper said.

Judge Arthur Tarnow gave Toviave the maximum term sought by prosecutors.

"I am not an expert in Togo, but I have lived in other parts of the world ... and I've never come across a civilization or society that allows the beating of children to make a point," Tarnow said. "Using broomsticks or others devices is just wrong."

One teenage boy who spoke at the hearing thanked Toviave for bringing him to the United States and giving him opportunities, but also told of years of abuse at his hands.

"You had no respect for me. ... I wake up with nightmares," the youth identified by the initials A.K. said. "You said that you would kill me with your bare hands when I was only a child. ... I pray that one day you will be able to change your ways.

"You are an evil person."

Toviave, a former University of Michigan janitor and part-time tennis instructor, was convicted last October on four counts of forced labor.

Authorities said Toviave regularly beat the children with broomsticks, a toilet plunger, sticks, ice scrapers and phone chargers if they didn't do their chores. The victims testified Toviave also withheld food and sleep as punishment during a five-year period.

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