A U.S. Army major and his wife both pleaded not guilty to torturing and abusing their children on the Picatinny Arsenal military base during an appearance in federal court on Thursday, according to The Star-Ledger.
John Jackson, 37, and Carolyn Jackson, 35, of Mount Holly, are currently out on $250,000 bail each. They have been ordered not to have contact with the adopted children they are accused of abusing or their three biological children after a 17-count indictment claims they abused two adopted kids for years by breaking their bones, withholding water from them, force-feeding them hot sauce and denying them medical attention.
The alleged acts took place between August 2005 and April 23, 2010, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. The couple had fostered and then adopted three children, one of whom died in 2008, and also had their three biological children living in their home. Federal authorities allege the incidents took place on the Picatinny Arsenal military base in Morris County where they were living at the time.
The indictment against the couple documents "unimaginable" acts they are accused of committing, such as force-feeding foods like red pepper flakes, raw onions and hot sauce to the kids in an attempt to cause them pain; forcing them to eat high-sodium foods and then depriving them of water; and breaking their bones with objects before denying them medical attention.
Fishman said the Jacksons told their three biological children not to report the assaults and justified the acts as "training" the adopted children how to behave. The indictment also claims that one of the biological children was instructed to prevent an adopted child from drinking water from the toilet or sink.
Prosecutors said that after John Jackson learned one of the children revealed the alleged abuse, Carolyn Jackson beat the child who came forward multiple times with a belt.
The Jacksons did not speak during their hearing Thursday, The Star-Ledger reported, and had their attorneys waive the reading of the charges against them and enter pleas on their behalf. If convicted of the crimes, each face up to 10 years in prison on each of the 17 counts and a maximum $250,000 fine on each count.
All of the children living with the Jacksons are currently under the custody of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
A trial date has been set for July 8.