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YouTube video shows Texas family court judge beating daughter

November 3, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
In 2004, a 16-year-old girl named Hillary Adams illegally downloaded music and computer games from the Internet. Her father, William Adams, an Aransas County, Texas, family court judge, was livid when he found out.

A video camera Hillary set up in her bedroom secretly recorded what happened next: William stormed into her room with his big leather belt, whipped her on her arms, legs, back and buttocks, shouted verbal abuse at her and repeatedly cursed at her, all while she cried hysterically and begged him to stop. He left the room for a few seconds, only to come back in and start hitting her again. Hillary's mother Hallie joined in, with both the beating and the verbal abuse.

During the beating, her father tells her that she doesn't even deserve to live in his house and wonders what happened to the nice, obedient little girl she used to be; tells her he will beat her into submission and threatens to hit her in the face. Her mother tells her she is no longer allowed to use the computer for anything except school work and that she can't sleep in her bedroom that night.

Hillary also has cerebral palsy, which makes the scene even more disturbing than it already is.

This week Hillary, now 23, posted the 7 minute long video on YouTube after she had a fight with her father over a car he had loaned her. Hillary said in the posting that people should not reelect her father, because "his judgement is a farce." She wants her father to seek counseling.

William Adams apparently doesn't see it as that big a deal.

"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 a Texas radio 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."

Even if it was only half as bad as it looked, it was still pretty bad. It's also depressingly common. I've known families just like the Adams family and so has everyone else. When you walk into their homes, you can cut the tension with a knife; the children are afraid of their parents, do their best to stay out of the way.

Mothers like Hallie Adams try to lessen the severity of the abuse by stepping in and taking part in it themselves and by agreeing with the abusive, possibly alcoholic father. It was no great surprise when Hillary's mother said on the morning news that her now ex-husband has a problem with addiction and violence regularly occurred in their home. Hillary's mother divorced William Adams and has apologized to her daughter.

The 2004 incident is now being investigated by local authorities and Adams has been placed on temporary leave. The video will probably help sway a jury if charges are ever brought, but based on the little I know about similar cases, I'm not sure what Adams did was actually illegal. Corporal punishment is legal in all 50 states and, provided the parent doesn't cause serious injury, they are allowed pretty wide latitude in discipline. Bad parenting doesn't necessarily amount to something illegal. I would hate to see the state get more intrusive than it already is, though cases like this certainly beg for some sort of intervention.

What's really scary here is that Judge Adams handles child custody cases, including cases where there have been allegations of abuse. He has a reputation for not believing abuse claims and might have awarded custody to parents who are similarly abusive. It's sobering to wonder how many other judges there might be who are like him.


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