FLORENCE — The issue of competency with Machelle Hobson, known as the “YouTube Mom,” is not over yet.
While doctors for the defense and the state have declared the Maricopa woman, charged with abusing her adopted children while running a lucrative YouTube channel, incompetent to stand trial, there was no mention in their reports that she could not eventually be restored to competency.
On Wednesday, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Delia Neal declared Hobson incompetent but restorable. Attorneys for both sides will present a recommendation to Neal for a restoration specialist. That information must be presented to the court within seven days.
Hobson was not present in court, and defense attorney Josh Wallace said he thinks she is still at the same medical facility where she has been held since being removed from jail for health reasons.
The state has a 15-month window to restore Hobson, 47, to competency. She could be restored much earlier than that, but 15 months is the maximum time allowed for the process.
Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer said he is confident Hobson will be held accountable for her crimes.
“I believe she will be restored (to competency),” he told PinalCentral outside the courtroom after the conclusion of Wednesday’s hearing. “I believe the 15-month timeframe is enough for us to get her restored, allow her to be brought back into court for her to be held accountable, and ultimately go to trial and find her guilty.”
Once a restoration specialist is approved by Neal, which Volkmer said should happen within a day or two after she receives recommendations, reviews of that restoration process, with updates from the specialist, will occur every two months.
The first restoration review is scheduled for Oct. 2.
Some members of the community have openly questioned on social media why a woman who was approved to adopt foster children could be found incompetent. But the evaluation of one’s competency is not solely based on their sanity or psychological state.
In certain cases, a medical issue could lead to a diagnosis of not competent. For example, Volkmer said a stroke or traumatic brain injury that impairs brain functioning are among other reasons why a person could receive that designation.
However, Volkmer said he could not comment on the specific reason Hobson was declared incompetent by the two doctors.
Hobson is charged with 30 counts of abuse, ranging from Class 2 to Class 6 felonies, with some designated by the state as dangerous crimes against children.
The allegations against Hobson include that she used pepper spray on the children, starved them, locked them in closets, hit and spit at them and pinched a child’s genitals hard enough to draw blood.
If she is eventually restored to competency and stands trial, the five juvenile victims may testify against her.
“It’s highly likely the children would be required to testify,” Volkmer said.
While police reports indicate Hobson’s two older sons may have known about the abuse, they have not been charged. Volkmer said he was not confident enough in a reasonable likelihood of conviction on any charges against her sons at this time, although that could change if his office receives new information in follow-up investigations.
The case has received national attention, in no small part because of the YouTube channel Hobson ran, which featured adventure videos starring the children she allegedly abused. It was a popular channel with more than 800,000 subscribers and videos that were viewed more than 200 million times. The channel reportedly generated hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hobson.
Volkmer said it’s a child abuse case unlike any other he’s seen due to use of social media and what the state believes was the impetus for committing the abuse.
“I can’t think of a case that mirrors these generic facts, in that the abuses these children suffered were in furtherance of the YouTube channel and in furtherance of her making money,” he said.