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YouTube parents who ‘pranked’ kids get 5 years probation

They admit their behavior was 'negligent but not intentional.'


Christine Friar


Posted on Sep 12, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 5:42 pm CDT

The couple behind controversial YouTube channel DaddyOFive has pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect, and was sentenced to five years probation Monday.

After months of headlines, Michael and Heather Martin were sentenced in Maryland’s Frederick County Circuit Court Monday afternoon. The two entered Alford pleas, which the New York Daily News explains means “the parents maintain their innocence but concede that the prosecutors’ acquired evidence would likely result in a guilty verdict.”

The ruling comes after a series of over 300 videos (that the family called “pranks”) went viral for being “particularly cruel” to the family’s two youngest children. As the Baltimore Sun points out, the parents would “destroy items” and “use obscenities around the children” in the now-deleted clips. In one video, 10-year-old Cody was reportedly seen “crying hysterically after Heather falsely accused him of pouring ink on his bedroom carpet, called him a liar, and hurled obscenities” at him.

In another video, Cody “got a bloody nose after Michael Martin shoved him into a bookcase.” In yet another, Martin reportedly told his stepson to slap his daughter, Emma. Their dad’s volatile behavior was a throughline in many of the channel’s “pranks.”

According to YouTube commentator Philip DeFranco, who was among the first to suggest that DaddyOFive’s videos seemed like possible child abuse, Cody (their youngest child) was a frequent target perhaps in part because he “appeared to be the most resistant to them.”

The Sun also reports that a neuropsychologist working with the Frederick County Child Protective Services found that there had been “observable mental and psychological damage done” to the family’s two youngest children. As part of their sentences, Judge Theresa Adams ordered that the Martins cease contact with the children involved in the neglect charges altogether (they lost custody of those children back in May, while the older three were not brought into the investigation and remain in the couple’s care).

The Martins’ attorney, Stephen R. Tully, said that his clients’ behavior was “negligent but not intentional” and that they’ve “learned to be more careful.”

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*First Published: Sep 12, 2017, 1:37 pm CDT