Bond set for couple in slavery case

The operators of a Newton group home for the mentally ill are ordered to have no contact with their alleged victims.

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a couple charged with enslaving mentally ill residents at a group home in Newton can be released on bond while awaiting trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Bostwick set a $200,000 bond for Arlan Kaufman and a $150,000 bond for Linda Kaufman at the conclusion of the detention hearing.

Bostwick ordered the Kaufmans to have no contact with the alleged victims in the case, who are now in state custody.

Prosecutors said Arlan Kaufman, 69, a former licensed social worker, was in charge of the day-to-day activities of the Kaufman House, a group home for the mentally ill.

Linda Kaufman, a licensed nurse, was in charge of dispensing medication and other caretaking obligations.

Investigators said that on at least one occasion, a stun gun was used to discipline a resident. Investigators said videotapes seized from the home showed several residents being sexually abused.

The charges stem from a 1999 incident in which people in the Kaufmans’ care were found on a Potwin-area farm doing chores in the nude.

During Wednesday’s hearing, federal prosecutor Lisa Krigsten argued that the Kaufmans, if released, would take advantage of the “cult-like” control they had over the former residents of the Kaufman House.

“The level of control these people had on these chronically mentally ill patients was complete,” she said. “The Kaufmans created an environment where these people felt they could only trust the Kaufmans.”

Defense lawyer James Wyrsch said residents removed from the home by authorities last month wanted to remain in the Kaufman House.

“I don’t understand what this ‘level of control’ is,” he told Bostwick. “The truth is, the government has sought and obtained control of these patients.”

Wyrsch then argued that the prosecutors failed to meet the legal standard for holding defendants without bond — clear and convincing evidence that the release would pose a danger to someone.

“These folks cared for these people,” he said. “Some of these folks really didn’t have much money, and the defendants took care of them…. They’re not dangerous to anyone. These are gentle people. They’re church-going people.”

Bostwick said the case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Sam Crow of Topeka, who will set a trial date.

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