Prosecutors seek 580 years for sexual abuser who kidnapped 2 northern New York Amish girls

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SYRACUSE, New York — Federal prosecutors are seeking a maximum 580-year prison sentence for a man who sexually abused six children, including two Amish girls he kidnapped in northern New York.

Stephen M. Howells, 40, and Nicole Vaisey, 26, admitted in May that they sexually exploited children. Authorities say victims were drugged and recorded during sex acts.

The abuse ended after the couple was arrested for kidnapping two young Amish girls at a farm stand in northern New York in August 2014. The girls were released after a day.

"It is overwhelming to imagine the sheer terror inflicted on these young girls, taken from their family and their community, held captive for more than 24 hours, drugged, and subjected to degrading and unspeakable brutalities," read the sentencing memorandum by assistant U.S. attorney Lisa Fletcher.

The pair will be sentenced Dec. 17 in federal court in Syracuse.

Howells' public defender asked for a 30-year sentence. Though his conduct was "obviously reprehensible," Howells is remorseful and accepts responsibility, assistant federal public defender Randi Bianco wrote in a memorandum. Bianco said his client was abused and neglected during his own childhood.

Prosecutors hadn't filed a recommended sentence for Vaisey by Friday morning. Her attorney, Bradford Riendeau, asked the judge this week in a filing to consider a sentence below the lawful maximum, arguing she had been severely abused by Howells and considered herself his "slave and property."

"Howells owned her body, her soul and her will," he wrote.

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