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DA: Statute of limitations prevents charges in judge's beating of daughter

By Tracy Sabo, Ashley Hayes and Moni Basu, CNN
updated 8:32 AM EDT, Fri November 4, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • District attorney says he cannot file charges because of "limitations"
  • Daughter tells Anderson Cooper she released tape to help reconcile with father
  • Now 23, she says violence was a regular occurrence
  • The judge says his daughter warned him if he "reduced her financial support"

Dallas (CNN) -- A district attorney in Texas said Thursday that the statute of limitations prohibits the filing of charges against a judge shown in a 2004 video repeatedly beating his then-teenage daughter.

The daughter, meanwhile, told CNN's Anderson Cooper she uploaded the graphic video as a way to reconcile with Judge William Adams.

"I wanted to show my father, 'Hey, I think you were in some denial about the way you are treating me and my mother.' And maybe showing him this would make him see something he didn't before," Hillary Adams, now 23, told CNN.

William Adams, a court-at-law judge in Aransas County, Texas, faces a judicial conduct probe over the incident.

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Aransas County District Attorney Patrick Flanigan sent a letter to Rockport Police Chief Tim Jayroe Thursday evening, informing him of his decision on prosecution.

"It is clear that no criminal misdemeanor information nor any criminal felony indictment may be presented for any criminal charge that may be depicted on the subject video," Flanigan wrote. "Limitations prevent prosecution of any applicable criminal charge shown on said video."

Rockport police said they would contact federal authorities to determine whether any criminal charges may be filed in federal court.

Earlier, Flanigan said authorities were 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 -- all speculation until the video is confirmed to be authentic.

A criminal defense lawyer said it was not likely that Adams could be prosecuted. In an offense involving injury to a child, Texas law defines a child as being 14 years or less, said Houston lawyer Chris Tritico. Hillary Adams was 16 in the video.

Jayroe said the statute of limitations for felony injury to a child is five years.

The video shows the judge whipping his daughter with a belt, cursing at her and berating her.

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.

Hillary Adams' comments to "AC360" came shortly after William Adams said she posted the video after he warned this year he might reduce financial support to her.

"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,' and strive to achieve no more in life than to work part-time at a video game store," the judge said in a statement.

Adams said Hillary told him that 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."

Asked on "AC360" to respond, Hillary Adams said, "I think that's a perfect example of the way he would always twist stories in our community to make him come out as the good guy."

She said her father, while assisting, was not her primary source of financial support.

The father wrote Hillary Adams "inexplicably dropped out" two classes shy of completing her college studies.

Hillary and her mother, Hallie Adams, spoke with Cooper about what they called a dysfunctional home where violence was a regular occurrence. The mother participated in the videotaped beating, but has since apologized. She said her former husband told her to help administer the punishment.

"I thought he was a monster," Hallie Adams said about her review of the video. "I thought that I was a witch."

Hillary Adams said she left her video camera on her dresser recording and covered its light with a scarf in order to capture the video.

The video is punctuated by cracks of the man's belt and the girl's screams and cries.

At one point in the 7 1/2-minute video, 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."

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."

Asked whether William Adams, who handles family-related and juvenile court issues, should oversee such matters, Hillary Adams said, "I don't think he's fit for the position." But she was worried about him losing his job. "I really don't know what the solution for him is," she told Cooper. "Except that I really want him to seek some kind of help."

Her father questioned her motives and timing.

"Perhaps Hillary Adams should explain, if she felt she was raised by a tyrannical father, a claim shared with no one until five years after adulthood, why she insisted on living with her father and not her mother from the time of her parent's divorce, until she moved out on her own," William Adams said. "Hillary Adams has been living on her own for some time, and has been an adult for almost six years, so why post the video in late 2011?"

Meanwhile, the state Commission of Judicial Conduct was inundated with calls, e-mails and faxes, it said in an online statement announcing the start of a probe into the matter.

Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi said his office was also 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.

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.

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."

William 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.

Whether Adams will face consequences for beating his daughter remains to be seen. But he will have to face the public three years from now, when he is up for re-election.

"I don't want to see my father prosecuted," Hillary Adams told CNN. "I don't want to see him punished by the law because I think he's been punished enough by all this. What I really think needs to happen is that we need to get him help."

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

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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