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Texas judge's daughter: Violence was regular occurrence

By Tracy Sabo and Ashley Hayes, CNN
November 3, 2011 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Daughter says her father "basically dared me" to post the video
  • NEW: The judge's ex-wife says she lived in "an environment of dysfunction"
  • The judge admits he is the man seen on the video
  • The judge will be temporarily relieved of his duties for two weeks

Dallas (CNN) -- A woman who launched a firestorm by posting a 2004 video of her father, a Texas judge, beating her on the Internet said Thursday that violence was a regular occurrence in her family home.

"It did happen regularly, for a period of time, and I could tell, because of the pattern, that things were escalating again," Hillary Adams, now 23, said on NBC's "Today." She said she left her video camera on her dresser recording and covered its light with a scarf in order to capture the video.

Her father, Aransas County, Texas, Court-At-Law Judge William Adams, faces a police investigation and a judicial probe after the graphic video surfaced of him striking his then-16-year-old daughter repeatedly while cursing at her and berating her.

On Wednesday afternoon, William Adams was temporarily relieved of his duties for the next two weeks, and a visiting judge will take over his caseload while the matter is being investigated, according to the office of Aransas County Administrative Judge Burt Mills.

No court dates were scheduled this week, Mills' office said.

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In an interview with KZTV outside his Rockport, Texas, home Wednesday, Adams confirmed to a reporter that he was the man beating his daughter with a belt and a board on the video.

"She's mad because I've ordered her to bring the car back, in a nutshell, but yeah, that's me. I lost my temper," Adams told the station. "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."

Adams continued: "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."

Hillary Adams told television station KRIS on Wednesday her father was "making light of the situation."

"I just can't believe he would say something like he doesn't think it's a big deal."

Adams appeared on "Today" with her mother, Hallie Adams. Although the older woman participated in the videotaped beating, Hillary Adams said she has since left the marriage because of the abuse and has apologized.

"We're very close now," she said when asked if she was angry at her mother. "When I showed her the video, she started crying, hasn't stopped apologizing, and I forgive her because she knows everything that happened."

Hallie Adams, asked how she could condone or participate in the incident, acknowledged, "It's chilling," but said. "My answer to you and to the world is something that I've been hiding for a very long time. It's a family secret, and that's addiction" on her husband's part.

She did not elaborate, but said, "I lived in an environment of dysfunction and it steadily got worse." She said she left her husband when Hillary Adams was 6 months old and "he shamed me into going back."

"I was completely brainwashed and controlled," Hallie Adams said. "I did every single thing he did."

Hillary Adams said on "Today" she waited seven years to release the video because at the time it was shot, she was still a minor and living under her father's roof. She didn't know what might happen to herself, her mother or her younger sister, she said.

The 2004 beating occurred when her father was punishing her for using the Internet "to acquire music and games that were unavailable for legal purchase at the time," Hillary Adams wrote on the Internet posting. She said she released the video after being harassed by her father.

"It was the straw that broke the camel's back," she said Thursday. "It wasn't any huge happening or anything." She said she told her father she had the video, "and he didn't seem to think anything of it, and basically dared me to post it."

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."

Receiving an outpouring of support after posting the video has been like a form of therapy, she told KRIS, which is based in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"People are believing us now, instead of calling us liars like they have in the past," she said.

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 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."

Hillary Adams "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 on the YouTube video.

Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi said his office has been overwhelmed with calls and e-mails, including some from overseas, since the video went viral on the Internet.

"Just a sad day. It's unfortunate for all the people in that video. It doesn't bode well for the image of our community or our judiciary or our legal community in Aransas County," Bianchi said.

William Adams is up for re-election in three years, Mills told CNN. He was elected to a four-year term last year, said Aransas County Clerk Peggy Friebele

CNN tried repeatedly on Wednesday to reach William Adams at his Rockport, Texas, office, but received a constant busy signal.

But Adams told KRIS that the conduct is "not as bad as it looks on tape." The judge said he had contacted judicial review officials in Austin and "more will come out" in the investigation, KRIS reported.

Asked what he might mean, Hallie Adams said on "Today," "I think that the story that's going to come out ... in his mind is that he's projected his problem onto me. For the entire four years since I've left the marriage, I've been abused and harassed through texts, e-mail." She said she told William Adams in June that she would not speak to him again, and "he has threatened to file for modification and take my younger daughter away from me."

Watch the complete video on YouTube

A Facebook posting on Wednesday attributed to 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 page called "Don't Re-Elect Judge William Adams" also sprang up on Facebook, attracting more than 19,800 "likes" by Thursday morning. 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."

Asked whether she wants her father to lose his job, Hillary Adams said on "Today," "I think wishing anybody to lose their job is not a really good thing to do," but "his being fit for the job, that's something I really can't say that he is."

She said she believes her father has been punished enough by the video being made public, "and I just think he really needs help and rehabilitation. We need to get him counseling or something."

Asked if she regretted posting it, 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 so many people are telling me I did the right thing."

A person identifying herself as Hillary Adams, on a Twitter account using the same username as the video posting, tweeted to CNN on Wednesday, "I'm not sure how much I should say, except that above all we need to help my father instead of condemning him."

The video was brought to authorities' attention about 9 p.m. Tuesday, Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe told CNN, and authorities are investigating to determine its authenticity.

Aransas County District Attorney Patrick Flanigan told CNN authorities are looking at numerous factors, including the child's age and the statute of limitations.

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. 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 possibility of an alleged abuser holding a position of authority such as a judge "doesn't matter and shouldn't matter" in the investigation, District Attorney Flanigan 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."

Police and the district attorney are taking the investigation seriously, Jayroe, the police chief, said. Investigators had not spoken with members of the Adams family as of Wednesday, he said.

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.

This article is based on reporting by Tracy Sabo in Dallas and Dave Alsup and Ashley Hayes in Atlanta. CNN's Carma Hassan and Michael Martinez contributed to this report.

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