Closing arguments ended Wednesday afternoon in the child abuse trial against Fresno Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula. Now it’s up to the six men and six women on the jury to decide if the evidence proves the democrat slapped his daughter, causing a bruise on the side of her face.
Arambula is being charged with a misdemeanor for child abuse. If convicted, he could face up to six months in county jail.
On December 10, Arambula’s 7-year-old daughter told her second-grade teacher, Shanna Del Rosario, that her dad allegedly hit her on the face the night before. Del Rosario testified last week that the daughter, whose name is being withheld because she’s a minor, showed her the bruise and said she was hit because she made her younger sister cry.
The prosecutor, Steve Wright, argued during closing statements that Arambula is a nice and friendly guy in public, but when he's alone with his three daughters he is “frazzled” and becomes violent when his three daughters are acting out.
“He doesn’t want people to know he’s not the perfect parent,” Wright said. “I can understand that, but I can’t understand throwing your daughter under the bus to protect your reputation.”
Wright reminded the jury that Arambula’s 7-year-old daughter told her second-grade teacher, Fresno police, and Child Protective Services her dad hit her on the side of her face. She’s being truthful, he said, and her story only changed after her family members coached her on what to say.
On the stand, the 7-year-old said her father “grasped” her and that she originally used the word “slap” because at the time, she didn’t know the word grasped.
“The difference to her testimony here in court versus the others, is it’s clear she is minimizing, maybe trying to protect her father, her family,” Wright said.
Arambula’s attorney, Michael Aed, told the jury it’s unreasonable to think the family is protecting Arambula over the child. Aed said the CPS investigation holds more weight than the police department’s.
“They (CPS officials) made a determination that they were unable to substantiate how that injury occurred,” Aed said.
Aed also insinuated Arambula is on trial because he is an elected politician.
“This man is under a microscope,” Aed said to the jurors. “Is this case treated the same as other cases? No. If it was you or me, this case wouldn’t have been filed.”
While on the stand Tuesday, Arambula insisted he did not slap or hit his 7-year-old, who is the oldest out of his three daughters. After trying to put them all to bed on December 9, he said he heard his middle child, age 6, screaming.
Arambula went into their room and said he thought his 7-year-old hurt her younger sister. He tried to calm down the “out of control” and screaming 7-year-old, he said.
“I just remember trying to get her to stay in bed,” Arambula said on the stand. “The memory I had was of her arms going across and flailing and me having to hold her arms together.”
He says putting his three daughters to bed that night was harder than usual.
“For the first time in my life I grabbed my daughter and spanked her twice on her bottom,” Arambula said.
Arambula’s 6-year-old also testified and said her dad spanked her sister. Aed reminded the jury to remember that two out of the three people in the room that night said the 7-year-old was “spanked.”
But Wright also pointed out that the 6-year-old said she was under her covers at one point and couldn’t see what happened.
No matter what the jury decides, Aed said, Arambula and his family are starting their healing process.
The jury will continue deliberation Thursday morning.