LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Michigan's attorney general has filed a fresh set of charges against a 45-year-old man whose child-slavery conviction was recently overturned.
Bill Schuette announced Thursday that his office is bringing three counts of first-degree child abuse against Jean-Claude Toviave, formerly of Ypsilanti.
Toviave allegedly brought four children from his extended family to live in Michigan after being granted asylum from Togo, Africa. He allegedly helped the children emigrate in 2006 with fake names and fraudulent papers.
From Nov. 2008 through Jan. 2001, Schuette alleges Toviave physically abused the children and deprived them of food and sleep when they failed to complete chores to Toviave's satisfaction.
The victims previously testified that Toviave regularly beat them with broomsticks, a toilet plunger, sticks, ice scrappers and phone chargers if they failed to obey his orders to complete household chores. They said they were required to cook and clean, wash laundry by hand, iron Toviave's suits, shine his shoes, wash and vacuum his car, babysit his friends' children and clean a friend's home.
"All children deserve a safe home environment with loving parents, but unfortunately that is not always the case," Schuette said in a statement. "Michigan kids have an advocate in the Attorney General's office, and we work hard every day to protect our most vulnerable citizens from exploitation and abuse."
Toviave is currently in federal custody awaiting deportation to his home country of Togo. The warrant for his arrest on these charges is expected to halt deportation proceedings. Toviave is expected to be transferred to the Washtenaw County jail in advance of arraignment.
Toviave, a former African tennis pro who at one point worked as a janitor at the University of Michigan, has been in federal custody for more than three years.
A judge on Monday declined to keep Toviave 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.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow had 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 back to court 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.
Instead, Tarnow gave Toviave a 21-month sentence – which he had already served.
If convicted of the child abuse charges, Toviave could spend the rest of this life in prison.
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