June 19, 2008— -- A former judge, his deputy sheriff son and his son's wife were indicted by a federal grand jury this week, accused of keeping an Indian woman shuttered in the couple's basement and forced to work 16-hour days without pay.
D. William Garrett, 72, a lawyer and former Fulton County, Ga., magistrate judge; his 43-year-old son; Russell Garrett; a deputy with the Forsyth County Sherriff's Office, and daughter-in-law Malika Garrett, 42, face a nine-count indictment on charges that include human trafficking, alien harboring, witness tampering and making false statements.
The government accuses Malika Garrett of returning to her native India in January 2003 and hiring a nanny, identified in the indictment only by the initials R.S., and with her husband and father-in-law conspiring to "commit the crime of forced labor." The Garretts threatened physical harm and threatened to accuse R.S. of terrorist acts and theft if she tried to alert authorities or escape the family's home in Woodstock, Ga., according to the indictment.
"The case is an example of alleged domestic servitude of a nanny brought over from India. This type of abuse is insidious, as it preys upon those who are vulnerable due to their immigration status and unfamiliarity with this country's legal system," said David E. Nahmias, the United States attorney for the Northern District of Georgia in a statement.
"Not paying someone for their hard work, and then threatening them with deportation if they report such abuse is a violation of federal civil rights laws. The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute this form of modern day slavery," Nahmias said.
"It is egregious to call what happened modern day slavery," the Garretts' lawyer, Manny Arora, told ABC NEWS.com. "This woman was a nanny."
"The government alleges that she worked for 16 hours a day. That seems impossible. I don't think there is that much to do in a modest, tasteful home," he said.
William Garrett is indicted for allegedly writing a letter to secure a tourist visa for R.S., despite knowing that she had been hired to work as a nanny. When the visa expired and R.S. remained in the country illegally, the family continued to employ her, the indictment alleges.
In 2004, the couple allegedly forced the victim to live in an "unfinished and unheated basement room with sparse furnishings."
All three Garretts pleaded not guilty Wednesday. If convicted, Malika Garrett faces a maximum prison term of 60 years; Russell Garret 50 years; and William Garrett 10 years.
Russell Garrett has been placed on administrative leave by the Forsyth County Sherriff's Office.
"It is unfortunate the government felt it had to prosecute this case," Arora said. "They have been charged on nine counts, for one nanny. The government can accuse people of whatever they want, without any real evidence."
The case is being investigated by the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The term "human trafficking" can be applied in all cases where the use of "force, fraud or coercion" is used to get people to work or have sex against their will, a senior official at the U.S. Department of Justice told ABCNEWS.com.
"Despite what the word 'trafficking' suggests," the official said, "it is not human smuggling ... [and] does not require proof of movement or crossing of borders."
Human trafficking is a federal offense because it violates the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery.
The Justice Department has conducted more than 700 investigations into cases of alleged human trafficking since 2001, an increase of 600 percent over the previous six years.
In 2006, the department initiated 168 investigations, charged 111 defendants in 32 cases, and obtained 98 convictions involving human trafficking cases.
In December 2007, Mahender and Varsha Sabhnani of Muttontown, N.Y., were found guilty of human trafficking by a federal court.
The Sabhnanis were accused of keeping two Indonesian women, identified only as Samirah, 51, and Enung, 47, as slaves in their Long Island home. Prosecutors accused the couple of forcing the women to work long hours without pay and physically abusing them.
They were convicted on 12 counts, including involuntary servitude, conspiracy, forced labor and harboring aliens.
The Sabhnanis could face up to 40 years in prison and are scheduled to be sentenced later this moth. Mahender remains free on $4.5 million bail, but Varsha had her bail revoked and awaits sentencing from jail.
No trial date has been set yet in the Georgia case.