A husband and wife in Texas have each been sentenced to seven years in prison for enslaving a Guinean girl for 16 years. Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, both 58, could be deported to their native Guinea as a result of Monday's decision, which also requires that they pay $288,000 in restitution to victim Djena Diallo, reports Dallas News. The pair were convicted of forced labor and alien harboring in January after prosecutors said the girl—now living near Houston—was brought to Southlake in 2000, then forced to cook, clean, and take care of the couple's children without pay. The New York Times reports Diallo began work at age 5, though Dallas News describes her exact age as unclear, noting she'd previously spent two years as a maid for Cros-Toure's father. He's a former secretary of state in Guinea, while Toure's father was president for 26 years.
All the while, Diallo was choked, whipped, and called a "dog" and "worthless," per CNN. She also slept on a floor for years before she escaped in August 2016 with help from a former neighbor. "I want to commend her, as well as the witnesses who helped shine a light on her circumstances," US attorney Erin Nealy Cox says in a statement. But any praise is unwarranted, according to defense lawyer Scott Palmer, who argues the couple treated Diallo as one of their own kids. "Our clients are paying a tremendous price for what we believe is a wildly exaggerated story by a woman desperate to remain in this country and to find a path to citizenship," he says. He adds his clients will appeal the case. They faced up to 20 years in prison. In delivering their sentences, Judge Reed O'Connor said age and health issues were taken into account. (Read more forced labor stories.)