Woman with YouTube channel pleads not guilty to abusing kids

PHOENIX — An Arizona woman who had a popular YouTube channel featuring children pleaded not guilty Friday to charges she abused some of her seven adopted children by pepper-spraying them, striking them with a clothes hanger and making them take ice baths.

Pinal County Attorney’s spokeswoman Christy Wilcox said Machelle Hobson remained in custody on $200,000 bond after entering her plea on 24 counts of child abuse, five counts of kidnapping and one count of aggravated assault.

Hobson is accused of such things as using pepper spray on a child’s genitals, applying a lighter or stun gun to a victim’s genitals, arm or other body parts, and causing them to suffer malnourishment.

Authorities have previously said Hobson locked up the children in a closet for days without food, water or access to a bathroom.

YouTube has since terminated Hobson’s channel, which featured skits about children stealing cookies or a boy with superpowers, after determining the channel violated its guidelines.

Police have said the children were taken out of school so they could keep filming the video series and hadn’t been back in school for years.

Hobson’s biological daughter, who is an adult, alerted police of the abuse nearly two weeks ago, prompting officers to visit Hobson’s home in the city of Maricopa, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Phoenix.

The Arizona Department of Child Safety later removed the children from the home, and Hobson and two of her adult sons were arrested. The sons, Logan and Ryan Hackney, are accused of failing to report abuse of a minor.

The child safety agency has declined to say whether it had any prior contacts or complaints related to Hobson, citing confidentiality laws.

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