Ex-Military couple face sentencing for starving children and neglecting broken bones

John Jackson and his wife Carolyn Jackson walk out of Martin Luther King, Jr. Courthouse, Thursday, May 9, 2013, in Newark. Photo Credit: Associated Press

A former New Jersey military couple convicted of abusing their young children faces sentencing in federal court.

John and Carolyn Jackson were convicted in July on conspiracy and multiple counts of child endangerment. The counts carry maximum sentences of several decades in prison if imposed consecutively, but the Jacksons are expected to face far less time on Tuesday.

“We are seeking a custodial sentence commensurate with the seriousness of the charges on which they were convicted,” U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Matthew Reilly said Monday.

Prosecutors presented testimony that the Jacksons’ abuse over a few years left the toddlers with broken bones and other health problems. The abuse was directed at the couple’s three foster children and not at their three biological children, the government contended.

Prosecutors said the foster children suffered injuries that included a broken arm and fractured spine, and were severely underweight when they were removed from the family home in 2010.

The Jacksons’ biological son testified the couple punished the younger children by making them eat hot pepper flakes or drink hot sauce.

John Jackson was an Army major at Picatinny Arsenal in northwestern New Jersey when the abuse occurred. He was administratively separated from the Army in April, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Defense attorneys argued during the trial that the Jacksons’ child-rearing methods might have been objectionable but they didn’t constitute crimes, and that the foster children had pre-existing health problems.

The Jacksons’ first trial in 2014 ended when the judge declared a mistrial after a prosecutor, while questioning a witness, referred to the fact that one of the children had died.

The judge had previously ruled that the boy’s death could not be introduced during the trial since the defendants were not charged directly with his death.

By John Porter

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