Trail Begins for State Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, Charged With Cruelty Against Daughter

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Joaquin Arambula appears in a photo posted to his office's website on March 7, 2018.

Joaquin Arambula appears in a photo posted to his office's website on March 7, 2018.

A trial began Friday for a California lawmaker accused of hitting his 7-year-old daughter on her face and leaving a bruise.

Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, who is on leave from the Legislature, has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor child cruelty.

He has said he disciplined his daughter by spanking her on the buttocks, not hitting her face.

The child took the witness stand after opening statements, holding a stuffed bunny in a Wonder Woman costume, the Fresno Bee newspaper reported.

Her grandfather, former state lawmaker Juan Arambula, stood beside her.

Joaquin Arambula was arrested in December after officials at his daughter’s school reported she had an injury. The child is the oldest of his three daughters.

Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright told jurors Arambula was angry at his daughter one evening and squeezed and smacked her face, the Bee reported. The child had a bruise near her right temple from Arambula’s wedding ring, Wright said.

Margarita Martinez-Baly, Arambula’s attorney, said he did discipline his daughter for bothering her sister but it was by spanking her on the buttocks. She described him to jurors as a loving father who had taken his daughters to church and the library earlier in the day.

She suggested the child’s bruise could have come from another event, including by accidentally hitting the bed when Arambula spanked her, the Bee reported.

Martinez-Baly plans to call Arambula’s brother-in-law to testify that he saw the girl and her cousin bump heads.

Arambula was an emergency room doctor before winning election to the Legislature in 2016. He still holds his medical license.

The Medical Board of California is aware of his case and looking into it, spokesman Carlos Villatoro said. He declined to provide specifics, saying medical board cases are confidential.

If a physician is convicted of a crime, the board will obtain the court records and conduct its own evaluation of the case.

The conviction must be “substantially related to the qualifications, functions and duties of a physician” to move ahead with revoking a license.

The attorney general reviews all cases in which the board recommends license revocation.

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