NEWARK, N.J. — A federal appeals court has ordered a new sentencing for a former Army major and his wife convicted of multiple counts of child endangerment, after prosecutors argued their initial sentences were too lenient.
A jury in 2015 convicted John and Carolyn Jackson on multiple counts, and a judge sentenced John Jackson to probation and Carolyn Jackson to two years in prison.
Prosecutors had sought sentences of between 15 and 20 years. During the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Katharine Hayden chastised them, saying, "This is not a game. This is not the Giants versus Miami. This is not, 'How many touchdowns can you get?'"
The appeals court wrote Thursday that the judge made several errors at sentencing, and it called the sentences "substantively unreasonable."
The Jacksons lived at Picatinny Arsenal, in western New Jersey, with their biological and foster children.
Prosecutors presented evidence that the foster children had suffered broken bones and other serious health problems and were severely underweight and developmentally delayed when they were removed from the family home in 2010.
An older sibling testified the children were beaten regularly and were forced to eat hot pepper flakes and drink hot sauce as punishment. At sentencing, he told the judge his parents should receive the maximum punishment and deserved to "suffer just as much" as their children did.
One of the foster children died, but the Jacksons weren't charged with causing his death and it wasn't presented as evidence in the trial.
Defense attorneys argued the Jacksons' child-rearing methods might have been unconventional but weren't criminal. They also said the foster children had serious health problems before they joined the Jackson family.
An attorney for Carolyn Jackson didn't return an email seeking comment Thursday. John Jackson was represented by the federal public defender's office, which didn't return a phone message.