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Press Release

New Jersey Couple Resentenced for Child Abuse

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

NEWARK, N.J. – A former U.S. Army major and his wife were sentenced today for a fourth time for their respective roles in abusing their adopted children – who all were less than 4 years old and developmentally delayed – through neglectful and cruel acts, including breaking their bones, denying them medical attention, withholding water and force-feeding them hot sauce, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Carolyn Jackson, 46, was sentenced to 140 months in prison and her husband, John E. Jackson, 48, formerly a major in the Army at the Picatinny Arsenal Installation in Morris County, New Jersey, was sentenced to 108 months in prison.

“Carolyn Jackson and John Jackson inflicted cruel and devastating abuse on three child victims over five years. The defendants’ systematic abuse was horrifying, and included physical assaults, withholding of food, water, and medical care, and forcing them to ingest hot sauce, among other inhumane treatment. Their victims were innocent and vulnerable children placed in their care, but who were treated with unimaginable cruelty. For over a decade, this Office has pursued justice for these victims whose childhoods and lives were irretrievably damaged by the defendants’ abuse. The prison sentences imposed today hold Carolyn Jackson and John Jackson accountable for their horrific crimes, and bring a measure of justice for their victims.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger

“We work tirelessly to seek justice for victims of the cases we investigate,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “Many times, the punishments do not fit the crime. This couple abused developmentally challenged toddlers in ways that seem unimaginable and unbelievably inhumane. They are now facing the justice they deserve – and their victims deserve.”

The Jacksons were each found guilty in July 2015 following a four-month trial in Newark federal court of one count of conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child; Carolyn Jackson was found guilty of 11 substantive counts of endangering the welfare of a child and John Jackson was found guilty of nine substantive counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

At the first sentencing in December 2015, Carolyn Jackson received 24 months in prison and John Jackson received probation and 400 hours of community service. The government appealed their sentences to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which in July 2017  found several errors in the sentencing process. The defendants were resentenced on April 11, 2018, at which time Carolyn Jackson received a sentence of 40 months in prison, with credit for time served, and John Jackson received the same probationary sentence. The government appealed for a second time and the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated and remanded for another resentencing after finding errors again.

At the third sentencing hearing, Carolyn Jackson received a time-served sentence with an additional year of supervised release. John Jackson received an 18-month term of home confinement. The government appealed for a third time and the U.S. Court of Appeals vacated and remanded for a third resentencing after finding additional errors. The Court of Appeals also ordered that the case be reassigned. In April 2023, it was reassigned to U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton, who imposed the sentences today.

The case falls under federal jurisdiction because the crimes were committed on a military base. John Jackson was discharged from the Army in May 2015.

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

From August 2005 until April 23, 2010, Carolyn and John Jackson conspired to engage in a constant course of neglect and cruelty towards three children they fostered and then adopted. The Jacksons told their biological children not to report the physical assaults to others, saying that the punishments and disciplinary techniques were justified, as they were “training” the adopted children how to behave.

After John Jackson was informed by a family friend that the oldest biological child had revealed the abuse in the Jackson household, John Jackson reported the breach to Carolyn Jackson, who retaliated against that biological child by beating the child 30 times with a belt.

As part of the conspiracy, the Jacksons physically assaulted their adopted children with various objects, causing two children to sustain fractured bones (including a fractured spine, fractured skull and fractured upper arms); failed to seek prompt medical attention for their injuries, leading to the partial amputation of one child’s finger and the near-death of another; withheld sufficient nourishment and food from their adopted children; withheld adequate water from two of their children and, at times, prohibited them from drinking water altogether; forced two of the children to consume foods intended to cause them pain and suffering, such as red pepper flakes and hot sauce, and caused one child to ingest excessive sodium or sodium-laden substances while being deprived of water, leading to a life-threatening condition on two separate occasions in two states. The Jacksons even punished one adopted child, who had to resort to sneaking food and drinking from the toilet, by hitting the child, making the child ingest hot sauce, and forcing the child to eat a raw onion like an apple. 

In addition to the prison terms, Judge Wigenton sentenced each of the defendants to three years of supervised release.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencings. He also thanked the Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division, Northeast Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Joel Kirch; and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Desiree L. Grace and John F. Romano of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.

Updated October 30, 2023

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 23-317