FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. - A Maryland couple behind prank videos involving their young children that were posted on their YouTube channel has pleaded guilty to child neglect as part of a plea agreement that will have them avoid serving time in prison.
Mike and Heather Martin gained national attention for their controversial videos on the DaddyOFive YouTube page. The parents received heavy backlash after a video titled “Invisible Ink Prank” posted earlier this year showed them pranking their son in a profanity-filled tilled tirade that left him hysterically in tears.
Following the criticism, the family said their videos were fake, over-exaggerated or scripted and would later pull all of their videos off of the YouTube channel. They also issued a video apology.
“There was no doubt that there was mental abuse occurring, so we had child protective services do some evaluations,” said Frederick County State’s Attorney J. Charles Smith. “It was clear from those evaluations that these kids were emotionally traumatized, so we felt child neglect charges were appropriate.”
On Monday, the Martins pleaded guilty to two counts of child neglect. Under the plea agreement, they received a 10-year suspended prison sentence and five-year supervised probation.
“We were outraged, the public was outraged,” Smith said. “We received numerous complaints on these two, especially the fact that they were profiting from abusing these kids was just outrageous. Obviously there was moral outcry. We had to take a look at it from a legal perspective. We had to make sure there was a crime occurring.”
The Martins lost custody of two of their children following the investigation. As part of the plea agreement, they are not allowed to contact them unless it is approved by a judge. Their probation also restricts them from posting any videos or images of their children on social media unless it is for family use.
“They are very happy to get the matter resolved and over with,” said Stephen Tully, the Martins’ attorney. “This has been a tremendously stressful experience for them.”