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Man convicted of enslaving woman gets 30 years

| Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 5:27 p.m.
This undated file photo released by the Ashland County Sheriff's Office shows Jordie L. Callahan. A jury there found Callahan guilty of forced labor, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and a drug charge in March. His sentencing is Tuesday, July 22, 2014.
This undated file photo released by the Ashland County Sheriff's Office shows Jessica L. Hunt. A jury in March found Jordie Callahan, 27, guilty of forced labor, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and a drug charge. That jury found the girlfriend, Hunt, guilty of the same three charges. She is expected to be sentenced Thursday, July 24, 2014.

CLEVELAND — An Ohio man convicted along with his girlfriend of enslaving a mentally disabled woman for two years through intimidation, threats and abuse was sentenced Tuesday to 30 years in federal prison.

The man, Jordie Callahan, 28, and his girlfriend, 33-year-old Jessica Hunt, were convicted in March of forced labor, conspiracy to defraud the federal government and conspiracy to illegally obtain prescription drugs.

The couple were accused of forcing the woman to shop, cook and clean up after their pit bulls and of using the dogs and a python to threaten the woman. They also threatened to harm her young daughter if the woman didn't obey.

The woman and her child were forced to live for a time in a dark, damp basement without a bathroom and the woman was forced to commit sex acts, prosecutors said. Later, the woman lived in a bedroom that was padlocked from the outside.

The couple held the woman from early 2011 to late 2012 in their home in Ashland, about 70 miles southwest of Cleveland, prosecutors said. She escaped the home by getting arrested for shoplifting a candy bar and telling police she wanted to go to jail because people had been mean to her.

The woman had suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, and prosecutors said Hunt and Callahan brought her and her daughter to live in their home knowing she collected public assistance.

Callahan forced the woman to have sex with him, according to trial testimony, and both he and Hunt threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

The couple injured the woman on several occasions to force her to go to the emergency room for treatment and took from her painkillers prescribed by doctors, trial testimony and court documents showed.

Federal prosecutors had urged Judge Benita Pearson to sentence Callahan to life in prison. Hunt is scheduled to be sentenced in Youngstown on Thursday.

“Mr. Callahan, through his cruelty, sought to deprive the victims in this case of their dignity and freedom,” said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for northern Ohio, in a statement. “He failed in the former and the victim's strength ended up trumping his.”

Attorneys for Callahan and Hunt argued at trial that authorities had sensationalized the woman's living conditions and said she was always free to come and go. In an argument for a new trial, the attorneys said the woman frequently visited a convenience store, attended appointments with social service agencies and even had home visits with social workers at Callahan and Hunt's home in Ashland.

Two other people were indicted in the case for helping the couple enslave the woman. Dezerah McGuire, 33, formerly Dezerah Silsby, agreed to testify against the couple as part of a plea agreement and was sentenced to 45 months in prison in April. Her boyfriend, Daniel Brown, 35, also agreed to testify and received a five-year sentence in March.

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