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: 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.

Image: Hillary Adams
Chris Sherman  /  AP
Hillary Adams, daughter of Aransas County's top judge William Adams, walks outside her mother's home in Portland, Texas, on Wednesday.
NBC, and news services
updated 11/2/2011 8:08:16 PM ET 2011-11-03T00:08:16

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.

Image: William Adams
Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams.

The video was posted Oct. 27 on 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.

"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."

Graphic violence
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.

© 2013


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