NO WINNERS IN ARAMBULA TRIAL

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MAREK WARSZAWSKI [email protected]­nobee.com

As­sem­bly­man Joaquin Arambula says spank­ing his daugh­ter was used only as a last re­sort, but why did lawyers report a bruise on his daugh­ter’s face?

Joaquin Arambula told us he oc­ca­sion­ally dis­ci­plines his three daugh­ters by spank­ing them on the butt, and only as a last re­sort.

Arambula’s at­tor­neys, in their failed mo­tion to dis­miss the mis­de­meanor child abuse charges against him, tell us oth­er­wise. They tell us Arambula’s 7-year-old went to school one morn­ing last De­cem­ber with a one-inch bruise on the right side of her face. Likely caused by the ring the Cal­i­for­nia as­sem­bly­man wore on his left hand as he slapped and squeezed her head the evening be­fore.

Those two sto­ries don’t mesh. A bruise on the head is nowhere close, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, to a spank­ing on the butt. Which leaves Arambula with some ex­plain­ing to do re­gard­less of how things play out.

Hon­estly, it’s bet­ter for Arambula that Fresno Su­pe­rior Court Judge Alvin Har­rell let the trial pro­ceed. Nor will it look good for him if key pieces of ev­i­dence are ruled in­ad­mis­si­ble on some tech­ni­cal­ity.

Arambula’s lawyers might win the le­gal ar­gu­ment with that ap­proach, but they won’t win much public sen­ti­ment. Peo­ple who are truly innocent don’t need tricky le­gal ma­neu­ver­ing. Not when they’ve long in­sisted the truth is on their side.

And right now, based on what was shared by his own at­tor­neys, it’s get­ting harder to be­lieve Arambula did noth­ing be­yond the bounds of nor­mal parental dis­ci­pline.

The mo­tion filed by Michael Aed and Mar­garita Martinez-Baly begins with a lengthy “state­ment of facts” chron­i­cling what Arambula’s 7-year-old daugh­ter told po­lice, child pro­tec­tive ser­vices and a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tor over a se­ries of in­ter­views. It also in­cludes de­tails of in­ter­views be­tween po­lice and the girl’s teach­ers.

I’ve read the mo­tion, and parts of it are dis­turb­ing. The 7-year-old told a CPS worker that her fa­ther picks her up and squeezes her un­til she can’t breathe. At other times, he’s kicked her. She said has seen him hit one of her sis­ters in the stom­ach and pick up and shake the other. She said her mother some­times spanks her with a stick.

There’s more, but I’ll spare you the dis­com­fort.

If noth­ing else, this re­futes the claim (made by Arambula him­self) that the charges against him may be po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Not when his daugh­ter shows up to school with a bruise on her head and tells ev­ery­one who asks that her dad caused it. See­ing and hear­ing that, how could the po­lice sim­ply look the other way?

Nor­mally, I’d be skep­ti­cal of most ev­ery­thing that comes out of a 7-yearold’s mouth. But when read­ing the mo­tion, what stands out is the con­sis­tency in her words as she de­scribed what caused the bruise as well as the ar­gu­ment and mis­un­der­stand­ing that pre­ceded it.

Over mul­ti­ple tellings the girl’s story didn’t change. Judge Har­rell found the girl cred­i­ble, and so do I.

By re­veal­ing key parts of the ev­i­dence now, be­fore the As­sis­tant District At­tor­ney Steve Wright can present his case, Aed and Martinez-Baly are ob­vi­ously try­ing to pop this trial bal­loon be­fore the launch. Get the un­fa­vor­able morsels on the public’s plate right away so we can have time to di­gest them.

Un­for­tu­nately for them, most of what was re­leased only served to paint Arambula in a neg­a­tive light. Mean­ing even those who want to be­lieve in his in­no­cence are forced to take a step back and re­assess.

I have a hard time see­ing how this gets any bet­ter for Arambula, es­pe­cially now that his lawyers have re­vealed their le­gal strat­egy. This won’t be a case of Arambula vs. Fres

no County. In­stead, it’ll es­sen­tially be Arambula’s word against the word of his own 7-year-old daugh­ter.

Hard to see how that ben­e­fits any­one.

So far, Arambula has been resolute in his op­po­si­tion to set­tling the case. I sug­gest he take an­other look at those op­tions be­fore go­ing on the wit­ness stand next week to dis­credit his own child.

Be­cause if he does, the fol­low­ing ques­tion will be asked: What means more to Arambula, his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer or his fam­ily?

None of this is easy for me to write. I like Arambula and be­lieve he has been a very good rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Sacra­mento for the vot­ers of the 31st District. (He is cur­rently on a leave of ab­sence for the du­ra­tion of the trial.) While other lo­cal politi­cians talk about im­prov­ing health care for fam­i­lies and chil­dren or es­tab­lish­ing public ac­cess to the San Joaquin River, Arambula takes ac­tion.

That counts for a lot in my book, and the peo­ple of his district would be ill served by hav­ing him step aside.

How­ever, the longer this trial plays out the uglier and more un­seemly it’s go­ing to get. Es­pe­cially if Arambula’s at­tor­neys cross-examine his own daugh­ters in open court. How is that good for any­body, his own fam­ily most of all?

I’m not say­ing Arambula is guilty of child cru­elty. That’s for a jury to de­cide. I’m say­ing it should never get that far. Arambula needs to think long and hard about taking a plea agree­ment and spar­ing his fam­ily any additional strife. Even if that means giv­ing up his as­sem­bly seat.

JOHN WALKER [email protected]­nobee.com

As­sem­bly­man Joaquin Arambula lis­tens to his at­tor­ney Mar­garita Martinez-Baly, right, in the hall­way of Fresno County Su­pe­rior Court on Tues­day be­fore his trial on a mis­de­meanor child cru­elty charge stem­ming from his De­cem­ber ar­rest on al­le­ga­tions he in­jured his 7-year-old daugh­ter.

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