An American couple who lived in Japan while the wife worked for the U.S. government has been ordered to pay $3.3 million for subjecting their Ethiopian housekeeper to sexual slavery.
Russell and Linda Howard moved to Tokyo in 2008 and asked the plaintiff “Jane Doe” to come with them from Yemen as their housecleaner, promising “Doe” a salary increase, a day off each week, health insurance, travel home on vacations and a safe place to live and work.
Instead, she was “raped, sexually abused and forced to work 80 hours or more per week,” according to the Sept. 4 decision by Alexandria U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady. Doe testified that Linda Howard told Doe she should gratify Russell and make him happy.
The Howards kept Doe in involuntary servitude by cutting off her contact with the outside world and by verbally, physically and mentally abusing her.
O’Grady entered a default judgment against the couple, and said both Linda and Russell were liable for holding Doe in involuntary servitude, for forced labor, human trafficking, unjust enrichment and conspiracy.
The court also said Russell was liable for obstruction based on evidence he had flown to Ethiopia in June 2011 after Doe managed to flee, contacted Doe’s husband and tried to file bogus criminal charges against her in Ethiopia.
Doe was with the Howards in Tokyo from December 2008 until she escaped in March 2009. At the close of a trial on damages, O’Grady awarded Doe $3,306,468, including $2 million in punitive damages.
Court records listed an Arlington address for Linda Howard but mail to her has been returned as undeliverable since May. No address is listed for Russell Howard.