CORPUS CHRISTI — The 23-year-old daughter of a Texas family law judge says that she feels some regret about posting online video of her father violently beating her with a belt several years ago but that she hopes it forces him to get help.
The clip posted last week on YouTube shows Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams lashing his then-teenage daughter 17 times on the legs.
"I'm feeling some regret for publishing the video because to ruin my own father is heavy indeed. But I really want him to seek help," the person identifying herself as Hillary Adams tweeted on a Twitter account.
In another tweet moments later, the person said, "Please spread the word that my father needs professional help and not hatred. We can offer him the tools to be a better person."
Rockport, Texas, Police Chief Tim Jayroe said Wednesday that his department has launched an investigation after receiving numerous calls from concerned citizens who saw the video uploaded onto YouTube.
“Obviously it is a very disturbing video. We in my office as well as everyone on earth is taking a look at it, at this time,” Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi told the Houston Chronicle.
'I lost my temper'
The seven-minute, profanity laced video shows a man hitting a girl repeatedly with what appears to be a belt during an ordeal that started over her downloading of music online, NBC station KRIS-TV of Corpus Christi reported on its website.
A message posted with the clip said Hillary Adams, 16 at the time the video was made, suffers from ataxic cerebral palsy and that the beating took place because she used the Internet to illegally download music and games that weren't available for legal purchase at the time.
The video was posted Oct. 27 on YouTube.com but gained international attention after being posted on the Internet site Reddit.
The video had 300 hits Tuesday evening. As of 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, it had 225,000. By late afternoon, the video had nearly 700,000 hits.
William Adams admitted that he was shown in the video. "It happened years ago ... I apologized," he told KRIS-TV.
He confirmed that it was his daughter who had been beaten and tried to explain what happened when the video was shot in 2004.
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"I lost my temper," Adams told KRIS-TV. "Her mother was there, she wasn't hurt... it was a long time ago... I really don't want to get into this right now because as you can see my life's been made very difficult over this child."
When asked if he felt he was going to face suspension or discipline from the state over the video Adams responded, "In my mind I have not done anything wrong other than discipline my child when she was caught stealing. I did lose my temper, I've apologized... it looks worse than it is."
The video shows a man violently whipping a girl in the legs 17 times and growing increasingly irate, while she screams and refuses to turn over on a bed to be beaten.
"Lay down or I'll spank you in your (expletive) face," the man shouts. The girl wails and pleads for him to stop.
Aransas County Sheriff Bill Mills said Wednesday that Adams, a family law judge who handles child abuse cases, had disconnected his phone because of threatening calls and faxes after the video went viral. Mills said Adams told him he did not plan to go to his office at the courthouse Wednesday.
No one answered the door at William Adams' home in Rockport on Wednesday, and repeated calls to his office rang unanswered.
A neighbor said she saw Adams packing up to leave with bags, a briefcase, clothes and rifles, which his girlfriend carried to the truck.
"He looked like he was here for a purpose," said Stephanie Perry, who lives across the street.
The video spawned at least four Facebook pages including "Prosecute Judge Adams" and "Don't Re-elect Judge Adams."
'Get the belt'
The beating appears to take place in a bedroom and the man is apparently unaware that he's being filmed.
"Go get the belt. The big one. I'm going to spank her now," the man says in the clip's opening seconds.
A few minutes into the video, a woman appears and barks at the girl to "turn over like a 16-year-old and take it! Like a grown woman!" She hits the girl once with the belt.
The ordeal then appears to be over for about a minute when both adults leave the room and shut the door, but then the man returns and the beating resumes.
Hillary Adams said she set up the camera because she knew "something was about to happen." Toward the end of the video, her father shouts that he plans to beat the girl "into submission" and rants about having a computer in the house and the problems it causes. The video ends with the adult woman telling her to leave the room and sleep on the sofa.
The woman, who identified herself as the girl's mother and who is now divorced from Williams, responded on Facebook pleading for support, KRIS-TV reported.
The woman, Hallie Adams, wrote: "I am praying for my daughters and me and my family to heal in all ways from emotional and physical abuse, for the current and continuing abuse of my children and me that has been ongoing to end — starting now — for my daughters to both finally be able to go to counseling both individually and as a family group with their Dad's approval, encouragement, involvement and support, for him to finally make amends to all of us, talk openly with us, and take the first steps to letting our broken family heal."
Not for revenge
Local officials said they're stepping up the police presence in Rockport, a city of 9,000 residents, after people flooded police phone lines to complain about the judge and have called in death threats to the courthouse.
"Let's just say that I had more than 40 emails in my personal account, compared to my average of none and we haven't talked to people in London before," he said.
Jayroe said he has asked the Texas Rangers, the state's top investigators, for help in the investigation.
Jayroe said investigators were trying to contact Hillary Adams, who now lives in the San Antonia area, and he was moving ahead with efforts to subpoena the original video.
"Right now we're trying to get a hold of the original contents of the video, which can be very accurate or very inaccurate," Jayroe said.
Meanwhile, Hillary Adams told KRIS-TV that she was safe and decided it was time to release the video. It was unclear how old she was at the time of the video.
"My father's harassment was getting really bad, so I decided to finally publish the video that I had been sitting on for seven years," Adams told KRIS-TV.
"It had happened before, and had been escalating," Adams said. "I set up a camera, and I caught it."
She said she posted the video for validation, not for revenge.
"I knew that the right time was approaching and I had held onto the video for so long for the right time," she said.
"I told him that I had the video, and he acted like he had nothing to worry about," Adams said. "And I said, I can post the video of you beating me on the internet and he said, 'Well, you can do that if it makes you feel better.' So I did."
Adams said she's overwhelmed with the media reaction, and the reaction from popular sites like Reddit, who encouraged users to share the video.
Adams said she hopes her next step will be closer to a brighter future.
'Act of brutal violence'
Elected in 2001, William Adams draws an annual salary of $138,055 as Aransas County's top judge. He dealt with at least 349 family law cases in the past year, nearly 50 of which involved state caseworkers seeking to determine whether parents were fit to raise their children.
Texas' Department of Family and Protective Services is aware of the video and "will take the appropriate steps in this matter," agency spokesman Patrick Crimmins said in an email. He said the agency would have no further comment.
Steve Fischer, a longtime attorney in Rockport, called Adams fair and a "better than average" judge. He said Adams sometimes shows anger, but not in a way that would be considered unusual.
Children's advocates roundly condemned the beating as abuse. However, investigators may decide that the judge's actions, while shocking to many, weren't criminal.
The lines between what's deemed child abuse and what's considered an acceptable level of discipline differ in various parts of the country and among various social groups, though the use of objects such as belts and sticks is usually seen as beyond any normal physical punishment, said David Finkelhor, a University of New Hampshire sociology professor who heads the school's Crimes against Children Research Center.
Jim Hopper, a clinical instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School and a child abuse expert, said there is no doubt that the judge's actions crossed the line.
"This is an act of brutal violence," Hopper said.
"To beat someone into submission is not discipline. To beat a child into submission makes it harder for that child to take in rules and the values that the parent believes they are imposing on the child."
Hillary Adams' parents divorced in 2007 after 22 years of marriage, according to court records. The divorce petition states that "the marriage has become insupportable because of discord or conflict of personalities," but a counter-petition filed by Adams' ex-wife states that the divorce was filed under grounds of "mental cruelty."
Court records show that the couple had another daughter who was 6 at the time.
Keaton Fox and Andy Liscano from KRIS-TV contributed to this report, as did The Associated Press.
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