American foster parents Kathleen and Martin O'Brien were formally charged in a court in the U.S. state of Wisconsin on Tuesday with 17 counts of child abuse and disorderly conduct for severe, protracted mistreatment of their adopted children, most of whom were Russian-born, RAPSI news agency reported on Wednesday.
The couple is charged with physically and emotionally abusing their children between 2004 and 2011.
The child abuse charges each carry a sentence of up to six years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000. The disorderly conduct charges are misdemeanors.
The defendants filed a motion during their arraignment hearing on Tuesday to replace the judge presiding over their case, according to local news source Walworth County Today. The motion was granted and the trial will continue with a new judge. The date of the continued proceedings was not set.
Russian officials say more than 19 adopted Russian children have died from foster parent abuse since adoptions between the U.S. and Russia were legalized in the 1990s, according to RIA Novosti.
In 2010, American Torry Hansen put her adopted Russian son Artyom Savelyev unaccompanied on a flight to Russia with a note saying he was unwanted and “psychotic.” The abandonment touched off a storm of debate in Russia about international adoption.
On July 10, 2012, Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament, ratified an adoption deal with the U.S. allowing foreign adoption only when Russian parents cannot be found. The agreement requires psychological testing of adoptive parents and gives adopted children dual citizenship until they reach legal adulthood.