BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The parents behind a controversial YouTube channel featuring videos of them playing pranks on their children have received five years of supervised probation after entering Alford pleas in a Frederick County court.
The couple entered Alford guilty pleas, to two counts of child neglect of their youngest kids, Cody and Emma. Their pleas did not admit to any abuse, but acknowledged prosecutors had enough evidence to prove it.
Prosecutors say a psychologist determined the kids were traumatized by these pranks. The judge didn’t think they were funny either.
“This was far beyond corporal punishment. This was egregious, abusive conduct and I didn’t think it was funny from the beginning. And obviously, the judge didn’t either,” says Charlie Smith, Frederick County State’s Attorney.
Hundreds of videos on the couple’s DaddyOFive YouTube channel showed everything from smashing electronics, to a fake robbery, and other elaborate pranks to terrify their five children. The Martins quickly reached 800,000 followers after launching their channel, DaddyOFive.
“We were just messing around one day, having fun, joking around and we ended up doing the prank and we put it on YouTube and it blew up!” Mike Martin told WJZ in the spring.
But one video in particular, posted in April, changed everything for the family. It showed their son sobbing as they scream at him for spilling ink, something they actually put there for the prank.
The video went viral, and outraged fans went on the attack, accusing the couple of exploiting their children. It triggered an international firestorm and an investigation by child protective services. Eventually, they were charged.
After the controversy began, the couple removed most of their videos from the DaddyOFive channel. One of only videos remaining is a public apology, which they posted on April 22.
“We have made some terrible parenting decisions,” they said in the video.
The other three children in the videos are from Heather Martin’s previous marriage.
The couple is not allowed to contact Cody or Emma in any way, without a judge’s approval. They’re back with their biological mother.
The couple claimed they made the videos to provide a better life for their kids. The had hundreds of thousands of followers and made hundreds of thousands of dollars.