CAMDEN, N.J. – A couple charged with starving their four adopted sons pleaded not guilty Monday.
Lawyers representing Raymond and Vanessa Jackson (search) indicated that they will try to get some of the charges against their clients dropped before the case goes to trial.
The couple are free on $100,000 bail each, and living at an undisclosed location. They did not speak at Monday's hearing.
"They still go to church every week and they still have a lot of hope," said Richard Josselson, a lawyer for Raymond Jackson.
Josselson said he was shocked the couple faced aggravated assault charges, which he said comprises knowingly and willfully inflicting bodily harm.
"To me, that's unbelievable," Josselson said.
The couple was charged in October with aggravated assault and child endangerment after their 19-year-old adopted son was found rummaging through a neighbor's trash for food. Bruce Jackson was just 4 feet tall and weighed only 45 pounds.
Authorities also found three younger adopted boys in the family's home who were undersized. The boys had been existing mostly on wallboard and uncooked pancake batter, authorities said. Since being removed from the home, each has grown substantially.
Since the Jacksons' arrests, New Jersey's child welfare system has begun a sweeping overhaul. The reform was already under way when the children were found, but intensified afterward.
If convicted on all 28 counts, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson could each be sentenced to 280 years in state prison, though it is likely the term would be far less. A trial date has not been set.