The US parents responsible for the YouTube channel "DaddyOFive", which broadcast "pranks" on two of their five children, have been sentenced following charges of child neglect.
Appearing in Frederick County Circuit Court on Monday, Michael and Heather Martin escaped jail time, instead receiving five years' probation. The Maryland couple have also been prohibited from having contact with Mr Martin's biological children and Mrs Martin's step-children, 11-year-old Emma and 10-year-old Cody, without the court's permission.
"This was far beyond corporal punishment," Charlie Smith, Frederick County State's Attorney told CBS Baltimore of the case. "This was egregious, abusive conduct and I didn't think it was funny from the beginning. And obviously, the judge didn't either."
Emma and Cody had been part of a series of more than 300 videos where they were subjected to physical and emotional punishment for the "entertainment" of the channel's almost 800,000 subscribers. The since-deleted videos, which included one of Cody being pushed into a bookcase by his father, and another where he was screamed at for spilling ink (the ink was invisible and set up by his parents), were widely condemned as child abuse.
Following a public outcry, the YouTube community rallied and a change.org petition was launched, urging Child Protective Services to re-open their investigation into the family.
please go report daddyofive on YouTube, he's physically and mentally abusing his children for money/views pic.twitter.com/b5crIcauuj— h (@chandlerspidey) April 19, 2017
Cody and Emma were subsequently removed from the Martins and placed in the care of their biological mother, Rose Hall.
Frederick County Assistant State's Attorney, Lindy Angel, told the Baltimore Sun that a neuropsychologist working in conjunction with Frederick County Child Protective Services determined that Emma and Cody had experienced, "observable, identifiable and substantial impairments of their mental or psychological ability to function".
"It became correlated directly to the behaviour and actions of the defendants, the Martins," Ms Angel said.
"When we began the investigation, I don't think anyone was certain there was criminal [activity]," she said, but the psychologist's reports made the state pursue neglect charges.
"I think everyone's interests are served, both the Martins as defendants and the state's interest in protecting the children," she said. "I think it was a fair result for everyone."
According to her lawyer Tim Conlon, Ms Hall, who attended the hearing was "disappointed with the sentence" but glad the case had ended.
Mr and Mrs Martin both took to social media following the hearing.
Quote of the day: today is a new day with new beginnings....❤️ pic.twitter.com/X0vyIlY9YQ— MommyOFive (@HMartin1983) September 12, 2017
Under the terms of their probation, the Martins are not permitted to post any video footage or photos of Emma and Cody unless it is for "legitimate family purposes."
Heather Martin's three biological sons remain in her custody.