The father and stepmother who pull dark pranks on their children on their controversial “DaddyOFive” channel face child neglect charges and up to ten years in prison, PEOPLE confirms.
On July 27, prosecutors in Frederick County, Maryland, charged Heather and Michael Martin each with two counts of neglect of a minor, court records obtained show. Prosecutors allege that the Martins neglected two of their youngest children, Emma, 12, and Cody, 9, between November 2016 and April 2017.
The Martins face up to five years in prison per count and a $5,000 fine.
The couple has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors, their attorney, Stephen Tully, told the Frederick News Post, but he wouldn’t comment further.
The Martins have a plea hearing scheduled for Sept. 11, court records state.
Outrage Over Videos
The charges stem from controversial videos the Ijamsville, Maryland, couple made showing them playing twisted pranks on their children that many viewers across the Internet decried as abusive.
In the videos, which have been taken off YouTube, Michael Martin, the children’s father, and Heather Martin, their stepmother, are apparently shown screaming and swearing at them until they cry.
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The youngest child, Cody, was a frequent target of the pranks. In a video posted on April 12, Michael Martin screams at Cody for spilling ink, apparently making the boy cry. Later, Heather Martin reveals that she used invisible ink.
In April, the couple lost custody of Emma and Cody, the two youngest of their five children, amid outrage from the public — as well as from Rose Hall, the children’s biological mother.
On April 28, Hall went before the Frederick County Circuit Court to obtain emergency custody of the children “so that they would be safe,” her attorney, Tim Conlon, says in a video he and Hall posted on YouTube on May 1.
In the video, Hall tearfully says it’s “very heartbreaking and disturbing” to see the videos.
Conlon declined PEOPLE’s request for comment Monday, citing a May gag order preventing Hall, Martin or their attorneys from speaking to the media.
According to court records, the gag order stems from a protective order a judge issued in May prohibiting Martin from contacting the two children.
Hall, who lives in North Carolina, told the Baltimore Sun that she hadn’t seen her daughter Emma since 2015 and her son Cody since 2014 because of a custody battle with Michael Martin, who is her ex-boyfriend.
‘We Made Poor Parenting Choices’
In April, the couple took to YouTube to apologize, claiming that the clips of them apparently berating the children are actually scripted.
Heather Martin told ABC News, “We love our kids. They’re the most important thing in the world to us. We made poor parenting choices by portraying ourselves this way. But we are not bad people.”
Saying he was ashamed, Michael Martin added, “This just — it started out as family fun. It started with me and my kids … They would get excited when they would get a lot of views. You know, it was more for shock value. We were going for shock value.”