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Child-abuse cases prompt change in Russian law

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family River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

A child abuse case near Lake Geneva has drawn international attention.

Martin and Kathleen O'Brien were charged in May with severely abusing their six adopted children. Three of them came from Russia, which announced this week that it's tightening its adoption rules for U.S. citizens after 19 Russian kids died in American homes over the last decade.

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A Russian TV network is covering the O'Briens' court case in Walworth County. The couple is charged with almost two dozen counts of felony child abuse and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

According to authorities, the O'Briens - both 49 - made their adopted children stand naked while the couple and their four biological children ate dinner. An 18-year-old told police that the adopted kids were often punished by being locked in a room together for days - and they were also ordered to stand barefoot in snow, kneel on sharp rocks, and stand in a dog pen with feces.

If one child did something wrong, all six were reportedly punished. Officials were also told they could not go to school, read books, use the family pool, or be in the house on summer days. Last August, Walworth County took custody of five of the adopted youngsters, including all three from Russia.

"The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel" said the county did not file a report with the state about the case until the paper asked state officials about it. And the county has yet to file a required follow-up report.

Both O'Briens have been ordered to stand trial. They recently asked for a new judge, and have yet to enter pleas. Both are free on signature bonds.

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