"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 in court. "Using broomsticks or others devices is just wrong."
A federal jury deliberated for less than a day in October before convicting Toviave, a former University of Michigan janitor and part-time tennis instructor, on four counts of forced labor.
During the six-day trial, the jury heard from the four victims, who testified that Toviave regularly beat them with broomsticks, a toilet plunger, sticks, ice scrapers and phone chargers if they failed to obey orders to do their household chores. Toviave also starved them and deprived them of sleep as punishment, they said.
They said the abuse spanned nearly five years in their Ypsilanti, Mich., home, which Toviave got through Habitat for Humanity, records show. Ypsilanti, with almost 20,000 residents, is about 5 miles southeast of Ann Arbor, Mich., and about 30 miles west of Detroit.
According to court records and courtroom testimony, Toviave brought the four into the U.S. by giving them passports with false names and dates of birth. He also falsely claimed they were his own biological children and enrolled the three youngest — ages 21, 20 and 15 — in a public middle school.
According to court records, the victims detailed the years of abuse in journals, which police confiscated, and reported the abuse to counselors, triggering an investigation. Toviave was arrested in May 2011.
The victims testified they were forced to do all of the cooking and housecleaning for Toviave, as well as iron his suits, shine his shoes, wash and vacuum his car and clean the home of one of his friends.
Federal prosecutors argued that Toviave deserved a stiff punishment because he was a father figure to these children and he abused their trust.
One of the victims had a message for Toviave, writing: "I pray for you everyday."