A former Hollywood studio attorney and his wife were sentenced Monday for abusive treatment of their Filipino maid in a case federal prosecutors said "amounts to modern-day slavery."
James Jackson, the former vice president of legal affairs at Sony Pictures, was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and pay a $5,000 fine. His wife, Elizabeth, was sentenced to three years in prison after her attorneys unsuccessfully pleaded for her to receive home detention.
"It seems she treated her dog much better than she treated her victim," U.S. District Judge Dale Fisher said.
The couple's former maid, Nena Ruiz, watched the sentencing on closed-circuit television but did not address the court.
Ruiz was awarded $825,000 in damages by a jury in 2004 after she sued the Jacksons. Ruiz alleged the couple forced her to work 18-hour days at their Culver City, Calif. condominium for several months from 2001 to 2002.
Ruiz claimed in her civil lawsuit that Elizabeth Jackson regularly slapped her and pulled her hair. She also said she was forced to sleep on a dog bed and was given three-day-old food to eat even as she was expected to clean and provide fresh fruit to the Jacksons' pets.
The Jacksons only paid her $300 for her work and threatened to turn her over to immigration authorities if she left them, Ruiz claimed. She said she finally fled after she was hit in the mouth with a water bottle.
Elizabeth Jackson, who pleaded guilty last August to a charge of forced labor, told the judge she took full responsibility for her actions.
"In my life I have always tried and strived to do the right thing," she said. "I failed in this case."
James Jackson did not speak in court. He had pleaded guilty last year to a count of alien harboring and acknowledged he kept Ruiz at the condominium even though he knew her work visa had expired.
"These defendants subjected their victim to what amounts to modern-day slavery," Assistant U.S. Attorney Wan Kim said.
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