Couple attempted to keep Amish girls as sex slaves: Sentenced to 25 years

In New York, Stephen Howells and his girlfriend Nicole Vaisey were sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to kidnapping charges.

(Melanie Kimbler-Lago/The Watertown Daily Times via AP, File)
In August 2014, deputies from the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department escort Nicole Vaisey, left, and Stephen Howells, to their arraignment on first-degree kidnapping charges at Fowler Town Court in Fowler, N.Y. The couple who kidnapped two Amish girls from a farmstand in northern New York and sexually exploited them and other children face sentencing in federal court on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.

The New York couple who pleaded guilty to kidnapping two Amish girls in 2014 have been sentenced to 25 years in state prison less than a month after being sentenced to hundreds of years of federal incarceration.

Forty-year-old Stephen Howells and his 26-year-old girlfriend Nicole Vaisey were sentenced Tuesday in St. Lawrence County Court for pleading guilty to kidnapping charges filed by state authorities.

On Dec. 17, the two were sentenced in federal court in Syracuse for pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to sexually exploit minors. Judge Glenn Suddaby sentenced both to the maximum possible terms, which prosecutors recommended — 580 years for Howells on 21 charges and 300 years for Vaisey on 10 counts.

The couple admitted in state and federal courts that they kidnapped the two Amish girls and sexually exploited six children altogether. Victims were drugged and recorded during sex acts, authorities said.

Judge Suddaby accepted prosecutors' theory they would have kept the girls as sex slaves if a soundproof cell in their home had been completed. He rejected Vaisey's claim that she was under Howells' control as a sex slave, reported the Associated Press last month.

"You are the threat that parents worry about every day," Suddaby told Howells, who used his job as a registered nurse to get the drugs used to subdue the victims. "You are the nightmare that never goes away for children."

Suddaby recommended sex offender treatment in prison for both.

Defense attorneys asked for shorter sentences that would have resulted in their clients' eventual release and noted both had been sexually abused in their pasts.

Public defender Randi Bianco said Howells' federal sentence should be reduced to 30 years.

In a sentencing memo, attorney Bradford Riendeau asked, "At age 65 after years of imprisonment, will Nicole Vaisey still be a risk to the community?"

Both have appealed their federal sentences.

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