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Ohio slave labor trial to focus on intention

– Two people accused of enslaving a mentally disabled woman for two years were trying to help a homeless acquaintance, not weasel money away from her, defense attorneys said Wednesday.

The defendants’ intent was the focus of opening statements at the trial of Jordie Callahan, 27, and Jessica Hunt, 32, in federal court in Youngstown. They have pleaded not guilty.

Authorities said the victim was forced to do housework in Ashland, about 80 miles northeast of Columbus, while she and her child were threatened with a python or pit bulls. The defendants are accused of spending her public assistance money.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice said Wednesday that the woman and her daughter were forced to live in a “cold, damp and isolated basement with a lock on the door.”

Police got involved when the woman was arrested for shoplifting a candy bar and asked to be jailed because people had been mean to her.

The trial could last three weeks and is expected to include testimony from two other defendants who pleaded guilty earlier.