PORTLAND, Texas (AP) – As his adult daughter took to national television, the career of the Texas judge now infamous for the violent beating he gave her as a teenager began to look less certain Thursday.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct announced that it had opened an investigation into the video, now viewed more than 2.3 million times on YouTube, that shows Aransas County Court-at-Law Judge William Adams beating his then 16-year-old daughter with a belt for using an illegal file-sharing program.
County officials said Thursday that Adams would not hear any cases related to Child Protective Services for at least the next two weeks. And the top administrator in Aransas County cast doubt on whether Adams could credibly return to the bench.
“I would think it would be very difficult,” said Aransas County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills Jr. “Personally I don’t see how he can recover from this.”
Calls to Adams’ office and that of his attorney were not immediately returned Thursday.
Hillary Adams, 23, says the outpouring of support and encouragement she’s received since posting the 2004 video online last week is tempered by the sadness that it’s her father lashing her 17 times with a belt and threatening to beat her “into submission.”
“I’m experiencing some regret because I just pulled the covers off my own father’s misbehavior after so many people thought he was such a good person. … But so many people are also telling me I did the right thing,” she told The Associated Press outside her mother’s home in the Gulf Coast town of Portland, near Corpus Christi Wednesday.
“He’s supposed to be a judge who exercises fit judgment,” she said
And she said the videoed attack was not a one-off. “It did happen regularly for a period of time,” she told NBC’s “Today” show on Thursday.
In the same interview, Hallie Adams blamed her ex-husband’s bouts of violence on his “addiction,” calling it a “family secret.” She did not elaborate. Their 22-year marriage ended in 2007.
Police in Rockport, where the 51-year-old judge lives, opened an investigation Wednesday after receiving calls from several concerned citizens, Police Chief Tim Jayroe said.
Adams, Aransas County’s top judge, was elected in 2001 and has dealt with at least 349 family law cases in the past year alone, nearly 50 of which involved state caseworkers seeking determine whether parents were fit to raise their children.
Aransas County Attorney Richard Bianchi said Thursday that a visiting judge would be handling CPS cases on Adams’ docket for the next two weeks. The agreement between the judges was only on those specific cases, but Bianchi said the visiting judge should take on all of them.
“It makes sense to me that as long as he’s (the visiting judge) here, he’ll be travelling from San Antonio, that it might be just as well that he go ahead and handle the whole docket,” Bianchi said.
Asked if he had concerns about Adams’ ability to handle future cases, or about the impact on cases already processed in Adams’ court, Bianchi said his top concern was the integrity of the process going forward.
“We have to do everything we can to protect that process,” he said.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services did not immediately provide comment, but Bianchi said the agency was involved in the decision to bring in a visiting judge to handle those cases.
Corpus Christi television station KZTV caught up with the judge Wednesday, and he confirmed it was him in the video. But he said it “looks worse than it is” and that he doesn’t expect to be disciplined.
“In my mind, I haven’t done anything wrong other than discipline my child after she was caught stealing,” Adams said. “And I did lose my temper, but I’ve since apologized.”
When told of her father’s comments, Hillary Adams said, “it’s a shining perfect example of his personality and he believes he can do no wrong. … He will cover up rather than admit to what he did and try to come clean.”
The 13-member Commission on Judicial Conduct comprises judges, lawyers and regular citizens. If this initial investigation leads to a formal proceeding, Adams would have an opportunity to make his case to the commission in a hearing. After that hearing the commission has the authority to censure a judge or recommend to the Texas Supreme Court that the judge be suspended or removed. The Supreme Court would then form a tribunal of appellate judges to review the case and make a determination.
Rockport Police and the Texas Rangers are conducting their own investigation. If criminal charges are brought against Adams, the commission could suspend him.
If the judicial commission and police investigations do not amount to anything, Adams could be safe in his seat on the bench for another three years. The last time he ran for re-election he faced no opposition.
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