IJAMSVILLE, Md. — A controversial Maryland couple that had been investigated by authorities following outcry from viewers of their “DaddyOFive” YouTube channel, in which they cursed at and tormented their children to a point of tears, has been sentenced to five years probation for child neglect.
According to reports, Michael and Heather Martin of Ijamsville were first investigated in April after “various sources” contacted the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office to express concern about their YouTube videos.
The more than 300 videos, while being characterized as “pranks,” at times showed various shock material, from the Martins screaming profanities at their children, to breaking their toys, to blaming the children for something they staged themselves, to Michael Martin giving his son a bloody nose by shoving him into a bookshelf, to instructing one of the boys to slap his sister in the face as a “game.”
The channel at one point had over 800,000 followers, reports CBS News.
However, neither investigators or Frederick County Circuit Judge Theresa Adams were humored by the videos.
“This was far beyond corporal punishment,” Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith told reporters. “This was egregious, abusive conduct, and I didn’t think it was funny from the beginning, and, obviously, the judge didn’t either.”
Frederick County Child Protective Services also found that two of the children, Emma, 11, and Cody, 11, “suffered observable, identifiable and substantial impairments of their mental or psychological ability to function.”
While the Martins have claimed that they were just “joking around” and that the recordings helped to bring in income for the family, they soon deleted the videos and instead issued an apology.
“We went from something that wasn’t so bad, and then we just kept going more and more for the shock factor,” Heather Martin said in April.
“The videos are fake; they’re over-exaggerated. Some videos are scripted … We’ve said it’s [the kids’] ideas,” Michael Martin also said. “I’m sorry we let you down. I’m sorry, but I mean, it is a YouTube channel.”
“I’d rather lose my YouTube channel and all my revenue than lose my children,” he added.
However, authorities removed Emma and Cody from the household and placed them with their biological mother. The Martins are a blended family, with two of the children being from Michael Martin’s previous marriage, and three of the children being from Heather Martin’s previous marriage. Heather Martin’s children were allowed to remain at the home.
On Monday, as the Martins were sentenced for two counts each of child neglect, they were informed that under the terms of their five-year probation, they may not have contact with Emma and Cody, nor the children’s biological mother unless expressly permitted by the court. They must also undergo mental health treatments as directed by a supervisor.
The Martins entered Alford pleas, which claim innocence while simultaneously recognizing that the evidence is stacked against them in a court of law. Their attorney, Stephen Tully, told reporters that the Martins did not intend to commit any wrongdoing and have learned to be more careful with how they use social media in regard to their children.
The couple continues to post videos online via their “MommyOFive” channel—which has over 134,000 subscribers—and their “DaddyOFive Gaming” channel—which has over 89,000 subscribers.