DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Monday declined to keep a former African tennis pro in prison after an appeals court threw out the most serious conviction in a case of fraud, immigration crimes and forced labor at his Michigan home.
Jean-Claude Toviave has been in federal custody for more than three years. U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow said he's served enough time for the remaining convictions.
Toviave, a native of Togo, helped four children emigrate from that country in 2006 with fraudulent papers. They said they were beaten if they didn't follow orders to vacuum, iron, cook, clean and shine shoes at their Ypsilanti home.
Tarnow sentenced Toviave to more than 11 years in prison in 2013. An appeals court intervened in August, however, and said the U.S. attorney's office in Detroit had overreached. The court said the children's treatment was "reprehensible" but probably a state crime, not a federal one.
That decision brought Toviave, 45, back to court Monday for a new sentence on other convictions of fraud and harboring aliens. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mollie O'Rourke told Tarnow that he still was free to point to the abuse and order a five-year punishment.
Tarnow said it was "awful stuff" but declined.
"You're asking me to sentence him for conduct the 6th Circuit said I can't sentence him for," the judge said, referring to the appeals court.
Toviave isn't a free man. The government will hold him while trying to deport him to Togo, where he was a political dissident before being granted asylum in the U.S.
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