Appeal Court Orders Resentencing of Couple Convicted of Child Abuse in New Jersey

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | May 19, 2023 | 0 Comments

On April 3, 2023, a federal appellate court ruled that John Jackson, a former U.S. Army major, and his wife Carolyn must be resentenced a fourth time for their child endangerment conviction. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit took this unusual step because it determined the New Jersey District Court judge who handed down the previous three sentences hadn't taken into account the children's injuries “holistically and in the context of the jury's finding of guilt” nor followed federal sentencing guidelines. In light of such procedural errors, the appeal court found that the prior sentences were too lenient.

Case Background

In 2015, a jury found John and Carolyn Jackson guilty of endangering the welfare of their three young foster children. Among other things, the couple was said to have repeatedly physically assaulted the children, denied them food and water, and forced them to eat red pepper flakes and hot sauce as punishment. Carolyn and John were convicted of 12 and 10 counts, respectively. District court judge Katharine Hayden sentenced Carolyn to 24 months in prison and gave John a three-year probation, requiring him to complete 400 hours of community service and pay a $15,000 fine.

The government appealed the sentence to the Third Circuit in 2017, arguing that the sentence did not consider the jury's findings and did not adhere to federal sentencing guidelines. According to U.S. sentencing guidelines, the mandated range of prison time for these convictions should be between 210 to 262 months for both defendants.

The appeal court agreed with the government and required Judge Hayden to vacate the previous sentence and issue a legally valid one. However, the judge's second sentence was also well below the federal guidelines, as she believed there was little evidence supporting the jury's findings. In 2020, the government successfully appealed again, but the district court judge's third sentence remained largely the same as before.

The government appealed once again in 2023. In an extraordinary step, the Third Circuit not only called for resentencing but directed a different New Jersey judge to issue the new sentence. The court stated that Judge Hayden “will have substantial difficulty in putting out of her mind her previously expressed views of the evidence and the defendants.”

General Rules on Resentencing

Either party may appeal a criminal sentence when they believe the trial court made a procedural error in the original sentencing of a convicted defendant or otherwise issued an inappropriate sentence. Resentencing most often occurs when the appellate court finds that the original sentence fell into one of the following categories:

  • Invalid. A sentence must adhere to mandatory state or federal guidelines, particularly minimum or maximum penalties.
  • Cruel and unusual. The Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution intends to guarantee that no punishment may be “cruel and unusual.”
  • Miscalculated. The calculation of the prison term must be accurate, especially with respect to “time served.”

The new sentence may be increased or reduced as the law deems appropriate.

Consult an Experienced New Jersey Defense Lawyer

Sentencing is a crucial stage of the criminal justice process. If convicted of a crime, you will need first-rate legal representation during this phase. Contact the experienced New Jersey criminal Defense attorney Attorney Joseph D. Lento. He has helped many people reach the best possible outcome in sentencing situations. He wants to help you too. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or schedule an appointment online.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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