Texas judge confirms video of him beating daughter, says ‘I lost my temper’
By Tracy Sabo and Ashley Hayes, CNN
Dallas (CNN) -- A Texas judge faces a police investigation and judicial probe after a video apparently showing him beating his then-16-year-old disabled daughter was posted on the Internet.
The graphic video drew international outrage after it was posted by a woman who said she was the victim -- and that her parents, including her father, Aransas County, Texas, Court-At-Law Judge William Adams -- were the ones seen beating and cursing at her in the video.
On Wednesday, Judge Adams and the district attorney agreed that the judge should be temporarily relieved of his duties and that a temporary replacement judge should take over his case while the matter is being investigated, Aransas County Administrative Judge Burt Mills told CNN.
A person identifying herself as Hillary Adams said in posting the video to the sharing site Reddit she had held on to it "until the right time" but decided to post it after receiving a "barrage of harassment" over the phone from her father.
The video, apparently shot on a webcam, was also posted to YouTube. In that posting, the person identifying herself as Hillary Adams said the beating occurred in 2004, when her father was punishing her for using the Internet "to acquire music and games that were unavailable for legal purchase at the time."
CNN tried repeatedly on Wednesday to reach William Adams at his Rockport, Texas, office, but received a constant busy signal.
But William Adams told Texas television station KRIS, "It happened years ago ... I apologized."
He said the conduct is "not as bad as it looks on tape," KRIS said. The judge said he had contacted judicial review officials in Austin and "more will come out" in the investigation.
Meanwhile, Aransas County Administrative Judge Burt Mills told CNN that he spoke with Adams on Wednesday morning.
"I talked to him this morning and he was pretty upset," Mills said. He added that Adams was due to be off from work Wednesday for personal reasons.
Judge Adam's ex-wife, Hallie Adams, posted a comment on Facebook about the video, according to CNN affiliate KRIS in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The posting by Hallie Adams states: "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."
A person identifying herself as Hillary Adams, on a Twitter account using the same username as the posting on Reddit, tweeted to CNN, "I'm not sure how much I should say, except that above all we need to help my father instead of condemning him."
In another tweet, the person said, "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 daughter "has had ataxic cerebral palsy from birth that led her to a passion for technology, which was strictly forbidden by her father's backwards views," according to the posting. "The judge's wife was emotionally abused herself and was severely manipulated into assisting the beating and should not be blamed for any content in this video."
The older woman has since left the marriage because of abuse, according to the posting, and has "apologized and repented for her part and for allowing such a thing long before this video was even revealed to exist."
In a statement, Aransas County Judge Burt Mills said the county is aware of the video regarding William Adams, "and the matter is now under review by the police department. Please refrain from communication with county offices or the sheriff's department on this matter until the review has been completed."
The video was brought to authorities' attention about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe told CNN. "The incident and video are now under investigation," Jayroe said.
"The first step is determining the authenticity of the video," he said. "It's a matter of needing to verify the information and that the video is accurate."
Aransas County District Attorney Patrick Flanigan told CNN authorities are looking at numerous factors, including the authenticity of the video and the age of the child at the time of the incident.
"There is also some indication on the video regarding the status of the child being disabled, and that can be a factor, as well," Flanigan said.
On the statute of limitations, he said, "That is one thing we will be looking at." The law is complex on which charges could be brought, he said, and which statutes may apply -- which is all speculation until the video is confirmed to be authentic.
"We're in a fact-finding situation now to determine what is true," he said, and the district attorney's office will get updates from the police department about the investigation.
In addition, he said, his office will look at how the law has changed in the past couple of years, as there could have been different laws in effect at the time.
The video posting said, "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. His 'judgment' is a giant farce. Signed, Hillary Adams, his daughter."
Judge Adams is up for re-election in three years, Judge Mills told CNN. He was elected to a four-year term last year, said Aransas County Clerk Peggy Friebele.
When asked if he knew why the tape is coming out so far in advance of the election, Judge Mills responded: "I guess they're having some family problems, but I don't know."
The possibility of the alleged abuser holding a position of authority as a judge "doesn't matter and shouldn't matter" in the investigation, he said, adding, "it will be a normal review."
As a judge, Adams handles misdemeanor cases, including family-related and juvenile court issues, Flanigan said. Those cases rarely move to the criminal side or cross to his purview, he said.
"We want to get to the bottom of it ... regardless of who the person is," he said.
The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct declined comment on the matter Wednesday, but it said it was aware of the situation. A woman answering the phone said the commission has been "overwhelmed."
Attempts by CNN to contact Hillary Adams' mother were not immediately successful Wednesday.
The video is punctuated by cracks of the man's belt and the girl's screams and cries.
At one point, the man says to his near-hysterical daughter, "What happened to you, Hillary? Once you were an obedient, nice little girl. Now you lie, cheat and steal."
At another point in the 7 1/2-minute video, he yells at her, "You want to put some more computer games on? You want some more?"
"Are you happy?" he asks her. "Disobeying your parents? You don't deserve to f---ing be in this house." He also berates the older woman, who identifies herself as the girl's mother, for allowing a "f---ing computer" in the house.
The older woman also strikes the girl with a belt once, and near the end of the video instructs the girl not to "touch one other thing on the computer besides your schoolwork until you are given notice otherwise."
The girl was apparently 16 at the time the video is taken, as the older woman at one point instructs her to "turn over like a 16-year-old and take it."
A Facebook page called "Don't Re-Elect Judge William Adams" sprang up on Facebook, attracting more than 5,400 by Wednesday afternoon. Messages were posted by users in countries including Australia, the Netherlands and Guatemala, among others, and a Spanish-language version of the video was posted on YouTube.
"This man doesn't deserve power," said a posting on the Facebook page. "He doesn't know how to use it."
Police and the district attorney are taking the investigation seriously, Jayroe said. Investigators have not yet spoken to Hillary Adams or her family, he said, and have not tried to contact William Adams.
"We would want to talk to her," he said of Hillary Adams.
Jayroe said his department has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety for assistance with an investigator. "It's the first time in 22 years we've asked for assistance," he said.
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