FLORENCE — Machelle Hobson was wheeled into court Friday morning to plead not guilty to abusing her adopted children.
The Maricopa woman had been managing a popular YouTube channel and earning thousands of dollars in revenue before her young children accused her of severely punishing them.
Hobson said little during her arraignment as she sat in a wheelchair and filled out financial affidavit forms.
Hobson was indicted by a grand jury this week on 30 counts of child abuse, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. Some of the charges have been classified as “dangerous crimes against children,” a distinction that has tougher penalties under the law.
“I’m very confident in the 30 charges that we brought forth,” said Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer after the arraignment, “We will prove all of those without a doubt.”
The chief prosecutor said Hobson’s case is highly “unusual” due to the number of victims, allegations, and agencies involved.
Pinal County Superior Court Judge Delia Neal has been assigned to the case and will soon have to decide whether Hobson is entitled to a court-appointed public defender.
The Pinal County Attorney’s Office told the court Hobson might have a large amount of assets that could fund a private attorney. Prosecutor Shawn Jensvold said his office has reviewed documents indicating she made $300,000 in 2018 and a withdrawal of $100,000 may have recently been made from one of her accounts.
Hobson told the judge her bank account is frozen and she has no monthly income at the moment. YouTube shut down Hobson’s channel of adventure videos after the abuse allegations surfaced.
The 47-year-old woman is accused of imprisoning her children for long periods of time, beating them with clothes hangers, and dousing them in pepper spray. The five victims were allegedly involved in producing Hobson’s YouTube videos.
It does not appear Hobson adopted the children to star in the videos, according to Volkmer, as they were adopted before the YouTube channel was formed.
The defendant’s attorney has recently filed motions to declare Hobson’s case “complex” due to the large amount of evidence that needs to be reviewed.
Criminal cases with this distinction follow different timelines than regular cases.
Volkmer said his office continues to investigate the case and reviewing records from the Arizona Department of Child Safety.
Hobson’s two adult sons, Ryan and Logan Hackney, are facing criminal charges for not reporting the alleged abuse. Volkmer said the sons have not been indicted and PCAO has not made a charging decision yet for them.