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Video: Daughter reveals why she posted beating video

  1. Transcript of: Daughter reveals why she posted beating video

    MATT LAUER, co-host: Let us begin, though, this half-hour with that incredibly disturbing story out of Texas , video of a father repeatedly hitting his daughter with a belt. He is a judge. And a warning, this is very difficult to watch. We'll talk to the judge's daughter exclusively in a moment. But first, NBC 's Janet Shamlian is live in Rockport , Texas , with the story. Janet , good morning to you.

    JANET SHAMLIAN reporting: Matt , good morning. Yeah, it bears repeating: This video is graphic, it is disturbing, it's difficult to watch, and it has taken the Internet by storm. More than 1.6 million views on YouTube , most of those within the last 24 hours. A Texas judge here in Rockport , Aransas County , repeatedly whipping his teenage daughter with a leather strap even as she was crying and pleading with him to stop.

    Judge WILLIAM ADAMS: Get over here.

    SHAMLIAN: The man in this video is Texas Judge William Adams and the girl is his then 16-year-old daughter , who has cerebral palsy.

    Judge ADAMS: Bend over that bed. Bend over the bed. Bend over the bed!

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS (Released Videotape of Beating From Her Father): Stop!

    SHAMLIAN: The beating continues unabated for most of the seven-minute video that has swept the Internet and provoked an online outcry. Again and again , Hillary Adams cries out after being lashed by her father's belt on her legs, her arms and her buttocks, once at the hand of her mother.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS (Mother of Hillary Adams): You turn over . I'm going to spank on your butt. You turn over like a 16-year-old and take it! Like a grown woman! Turn over !

    SHAMLIAN: The disturbing scene was captured seven years ago in her bedroom, Hillary says, after her dad found out she had downloaded music from an illegal website.

    Judge ADAMS: Are you happy? Huh? Disobeying your parents?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Stop!

    SHAMLIAN: After holding onto the video since 2004 , Hillary , now 23 and living on her own, uploaded it to YouTube after she says her father continued to harass her and she finally had enough.

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: The disputes and the harassment were escalating and finally it just was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back, and I told him I had the video and he brushed it off.

    SHAMLIAN: William Adams isn't just Hillary 's father. He's a judge in south Texas , where he routinely rules on cases involving children. He also sits on a county board overseeing the juvenile system. He admits that's him in the video .

    Judge ADAMS: No, I -- in my mind I haven't done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing . And I did lose my temper but I've since apologized. It looks worse than it is. There is a story. It'll come out in due time , OK?

    Offscreen Voice: And it's because she downloaded a game onto your computer or something?

    Judge ADAMS: No, she was stealing -- I don't want to get into it, OK?

    Voice: OK.

    Judge ADAMS: But there was a reason she was being disciplined.

    SHAMLIAN: But as a family's private feud went public and viral, outrage has boiled over. Facebook pages have sprung up decrying Judge Adams . The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct has been flooded with demands he be removed from the bench, and in tiny Rockport , police have been swamped by calls from all over the world . Chief Tim Jayroe has opened an investigation at the district attorney's request to determine whether the beating was criminal. When does it cross the line? When does discipline within a family become assault?

    Mr. TIM JAYROE (Rockport Police Chief): Yeah, frequently that's a difficult thing to determine because by state law a person has a right to discipline their children to a point, but not to the point that you cause serious bodily injury to a child.

    SHAMLIAN: Hillary 's mother has since divorced Adams and apologized for her role in the beating. For his part, Judge Adams insists his daughter wasn't hurt.

    Judge ADAMS: I lost my temper. I spanked her. Her mother was there. She wasn't hurt. It was a long time ago.

    Voice: Do you acknowledge that it's -- the beating was excessive, the spanking, the discipline?

    Judge ADAMS: No, I'm not going to get into any of that, OK?

    SHAMLIAN: Police say Judge Adams has left Rockport , and a note outside the courthouse informs his hearings have been canceled.

    Judge ADAMS: Well, then I ought to just keep beating you...

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Stop!

    Judge ADAMS: ...and beating you!

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Stop!

    SHAMLIAN: A daughter 's disclosure as a family's private troubles go public. Authorities tell NBC News that for a charge such as bodily injury to a child the statute of limitations is five years. This video is seven years old, so it's likely no charges will be filed. As for Judge Adams ' seat here on the bench, county officials tell me that when the judge does return, for any cases involving children, a visiting judge is going to handle those at least for now. Matt :

    LAUER: Janet Shamlian . Thank you very much . Hillary and Hallie Adams are here with us for an exclusive interview. Ladies, good morning to both of you.

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Good morning, Matt.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Good morning.

    LAUER: We only showed a little portion of that tape. It goes on for seven very long minutes. We showed it in our newsroom yesterday to people who have seen an awful lot of tough things. They were universally upset by this. As you watch it seven years later, Hillary , what goes through your mind?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: It -- well, I've experienced everything from crying about it to almost just laughing. I've just experienced so many emotions, and sometimes it's like reliving it and sometimes it's like watching it from a completely third-person point of view. It's just -- it's really impossible to put all that into words.

    LAUER: Families in this country struggle with the dilemma of punishing and discipline all the time, to spank or not spank. I think the belt thing seems to cross a line. But was this something that happened regularly in your house? Is that why you set that camera up in the room that night?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: It did happen regularly for a period of time, and I could tell because of the pattern that things were escalating again, so I set up my video camera on my dresser and covered the little red light with a scarf. And about half an hour after I set the camera up, this happened, and it was amazing that I was able to capture such a thing.

    LAUER: Why did you wait seven years? You've had this video ; you clearly are as upset about it today as you were back then. Why did you wait seven years, and why release it on the Internet as opposed to going to authorities with it?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Well, I waited seven years because back then I was still a minor and living under his roof, and releasing it then would have -- I don't know would have happened to me or my mother or my little sister . So waiting till today, seven years later just about, it has enabled me to pull away and be able to distance myself from the consequences.

    LAUER: You released a note accompanying the video , quote, "Judge William Adams is not fit to be anywhere near the law system if he can't even exercise fit judgment as a parent himself. Do not allow this man to ever be re-elected again." Now, he's not up for re-election right now. I don't think that comes for three years. So again, the timing of this is in question. Why?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: It just -- it was like I said in that previous video . It was the straw that broke the camel's back. It wasn't any, you know, huge happening or anything. I just -- I told him I had the video and he didn't seem to think anything of it and basically dared me to post it.

    LAUER: Do you want him to lose his job?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: I think wishing anybody to lose their job is not a really good thing to do, but...

    LAUER: But he -- because of a public outcry , there's a chance...

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Yeah.

    LAUER: ...he may be forced to step down...

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: I know.

    LAUER: ...even if no criminal charges are filed against him.

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: But his being fit for the job, that's something I really can't say that he is.

    LAUER: Hallie , let me turn to you because you're in this tape.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Yes.

    LAUER: And we heard you in there...

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Yes.

    LAUER: ...saying, ' Turn over . Take it like a 16-year-old girl.' I mean...

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: It's chilling.

    LAUER: ...how does a mother -- how does a mother not only stand by and watch her husband do that to her daughter , but take part in it?

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: That's a good question and that's what I had to ask myself. I didn't know about the video until this -- well, until this past April, and this past weekend was the first time I saw it. And my answer to you and to the world is something that I've been hiding for a very long time as a family secret , and that's addiction. And my husband...

    LAUER: Addiction on your part or on...

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: No, sir.

    LAUER: On his part.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Yes, sir.

    LAUER: But still that doesn't tell me why you participated in it and watched it.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Because I lived in an environment of dysfunction and it steadily got worse. I tried to -- I did leave him when she was six months old, and he shamed me into going back and I did my best to make the marriage work.

    LAUER: So were you afraid for your own safety if you had stood up to this man, that you would...

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: I was completely brainwashed and controlled. I did every single thing that he did. When I leave the room, he's telling me what to say, what to do.

    LAUER: Are you angry at your mom?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: No. No, we're very close now. It -- she -- when I showed her the video , she started crying, hasn't stopped apologizing, and I forgive her because she knows everything that happened.

    LAUER: Judge Adams said on Wednesday, quote, "I haven't done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing . I did lose my temper but I've since apologized. It looks worse than it is. There is a story. It will come out in due time ." What is the story that you think he is referring to.

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: He -- well, I think he feared and didn't understand the Internet because the media that I wanted to obtain was overseas and at that time I couldn't have purchased it if I'd wanted to. So I think there's some controversy there.

    LAUER: But is there more that's going on in this family that I don't about.

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Well...

    LAUER: You're saying yes.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Mm-hmm.

    LAUER: What else is there ?

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: I think that the story that's going to come out in undue time in his mind is that he has projected his problem onto me. And for the entire four years since I left the marriage I've been abused and harassed through texts, emails. I've had to cut him off talking to him. And this past June I told him I wasn't texting him at all, I was never talking to him again, and he's threatened me to file for modification to take my younger daughter away from me over and over.

    LAUER: What do you -- what do you want to see here, Hillary ? Do you want him to get help?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Yes, exactly.

    LAUER: What is the outcome you're looking for?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: I think he's been punished enough just by seeing this go public like this and I think he just really needs help and rehabilitation. We need to get him counseling or something.

    LAUER: Do you have any regrets, by the way, of releasing this now, now that this has gone so public and so many people have watched it? Any regrets?

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: Well, I regret that some of my friends and some people close to me have kind of had trouble with this, and of course I regret that it's my own father. I'm having very mixed feelings about that. But at the same time, so many people are telling me that I did the right thing. So there have -- definitely different emotions.

    LAUER: Hillary and Hallie Adams . Thank you so much . We appreciate you both being here. We'll follow this story.

    Ms. HILLARY ADAMS: OK, thank you, Matt.

    Ms. HALLIE ADAMS: Thank you.

By
TODAY contributor
updated 11/3/2011 6:41:12 PM ET 2011-11-03T22:41:12

A disturbing viral video, taken seven years ago and posted on YouTube last week by the daughter of a Texas judge, has turned a family’s private pain into a wave of public outcry.

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The 7 ½-minute video, uploaded by 23-year-old Hillary Adams, shows Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams viciously whipping his then-16-year-old daughter with a strap.

Late Thursday afternoon, Judge Adams issued a statement through his attorney asserting that his daughter released the tape to retaliate against him for withdrawing his financial support.

“If the public must know, just prior to the YouTube upload, a concerned father shared with his 23-year-old daughter that he was unwilling to continue to work hard and be her primary source of financial support, if she was going to simply ‘drop out’ [from college] and strive to achieve no more in life than to work part time at a video-game store,” said the statement released by Adams’ attorney, William A. Dudley.

Read the full statement here

“Hillary warned her father if he reduced her financial support, and took away her Mercedes automobile, which her father had provided, he would live to regret it. The post was then uploaded.”

The video depicts Hillary's mother, Hallie, participating in the beating. Both women spoke exclusively with Matt Lauer on TODAY Thursday about the furor the video has caused and the reasons for posting it seven years after it was taken.

Although the five-year statute of limitations for charges of bodily injury to a child most likely means criminal charges will not be filed, the video could potentially result in Judge Adams' removal from the bench. A police investigation into whether the beating was criminal has been opened by the local police at the district attorney’s request.

“I’ve experienced everything from crying about it to almost just laughing,’’ Hillary told TODAY. “I’ve just experienced so many emotions. Sometimes it’s like reliving it, and sometimes it’s like watching it from a completely different point of view. It’s really impossible to put all of that into words.

Story: Judge's daughter: Hope beating video gets him help

“I think [my father] has been punished enough just by seeing this go public like this, and I think he just really needs help and rehabilitation,” she said. “I regret that some of my friends and some people close to me have kind of had trouble with this, and of course, I regret that it’s my own father. I’m having very mixed feelings about that, but at the same time people are telling me that I did the right thing, so there have been definitely different emotions.’’

In the statement released by his attorney, Judge Adams questioned the genuineness of his daughter’s pleas that he get help.

“If this entire event was a plea for help and healing, the methodology is certainly unorthodox,” the statement said. “Judge Adams, who among other reasons, still has a minor daughter to consider, chooses to involve the media as little as possible whilst personal family matters are sorted through. The public may ponder what consideration Hillary Adams gave her little sister before subjecting the entire family to worldwide microscopic scrutiny, and permanent consequences.”

On the day of the beating, Hillary, who has cerebral palsy, was caught by her parents downloading illegal music off the Internet. Such extreme discipline at the hands of her father occurred regularly, she claimed, so she secretly set up a camera on her dresser and covered the red "on" light with a scarf. Half an hour later, she received the punishment that is shown on YouTube, as her father repeatedly barks, “Bend over the bed!’’ amidst an expletive-filled rant. He beats her with a leather switch on the legs, arms and buttocks while she cries out.

At one point, Hallie, who divorced Judge Adams four years ago, also smacks Hillary with the strap while saying, “You turn over like a 16-year-old and take it, like a grown woman!’’

"As a parent, I feel like a failure," Hallie Adams said on an msnbc appearance. She said when she saw the video for the first time this past weekend, she considered taking her own life. She also alleged that her former husband was "severely addicted" to painkillers and opiates.

Hallie defended her participation in the incident, saying that her husband's physical and emotional abuse had “brainwashed’’ her.

She left her husband, she told TODAY, when Hillary was 6 months old, but he convinced her to return. She told him to stop texting and contacting her this past June, she claimed, and added that he has threatened to have her younger daughter removed from her custody.

“I lived in an environment of dysfunction, and it steadily got worse,’’ Hallie said. “I was completely brainwashed and controlled. I did every single thing that he did. When I leave the room, he’s telling me what to say, what to do.’’

In an interview with a local news affiliate, Judge Adams responded to questions about the video and the claims of his wife and daughter.

Image:
AP file
Aransas County Judge William Adams told Corpus Christi television station KZTV that the YouTube video that shows him lashing his then-16-year-old daughter with a belt "looks worse than it is."

“In my mind, I haven’t done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing,’’ he said. “I did lose my temper, but I have since apologized. It looks worse than it is. There is a story. It will come out in due time.’’

“I think the story that’s going to come out in due time in his mind is that he has projected his problem on to me,’’ Hallie told TODAY. “For the entire four years since I’ve left the marriage, I’ve been abused and harassed with texts (and) emails.’’

Hillary held on to the video for seven years until a series of small disputes with her father led her to post it on the site Reddit. It quickly went viral.

“I waited seven years because back then I was still a minor and living under his roof and releasing it then, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me and my mother and my little sister,’’ Hillary said. “So waiting until today, seven years later, was about me being able to pull away and distance myself from the consequences.

“It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It wasn’t any huge happening. I told him I had the video, and he didn’t seem to think anything of it and basically dared me to post it.’’

Reddit’s members launched a campaign, pranking the judge by ordering pizzas to his home and posting numbers for local law enforcement and media outlets to gain more attention for the video. Once it hit YouTube, it exploded across the web, receiving more than 1.6 million views in just over a day. The local sheriff’s office has launched an investigation and a Facebook page has popped up calling for people to vote down Judge Adams in the next election, which will take place in three years. Police in the family’s hometown of Rockport, about 200 miles south of Houston, have also been swamped with calls from all over the world looking for them to take action.

“Judge William Adams is not fit to be anywhere near the law system if he can’t even exercise fit judgment as a parent himself,’’ a note on the video reads.

“I think wishing anybody to lose their job is not a really good thing to do,’’ Hillary said. “His being fit for the job, that’s something that I really can’t say that he is.’’

Judge Adams, who routinely rules on cases involving children, has left Rockport, according to police. All of his scheduled hearings have been cancelled, according to a notice in the courthouse. When he does return, a visiting judge will handle any cases involving children for now, according to court officials.

Hillary, who lives on her own, has reconciled with her mother.

“We’re very close now, and when I showed her the video, she started crying and hasn’t stopped apologizing,’’ Hillary said. “I forgive her because she knows everything that happened.’’

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