FRESNO, CA (KM) – Defense brings Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula to testify Tuesday at his own misdemeanor child abuse trial.
Defense had the final two witnesses, Dr. Joaquin Arambula on the stand along with his brother Diego.
Stanford-educated Diego Arambula said he was working as a teacher and a principal in the Bay area and had moved back home to the Central Valley with his wife and two kids, to be close to family and “raise our girls here.”
He described the Arambula family as close-knit, every year they traveled to Disneyland and Mexico with trips paid for by the patriarch of the family, Juan Arambula and his wife Amy.
Diego said his brother Joaquin was protective of his girls. Diego described the trampoline in his yard, and said that his older brother would always watch the kids when they were jumping to ensure their safety.
“It’s the ER doctor in him, that he just can’t get beyond worrying about them,” said Diego.
He said after the alleged incident, there was never any discussion in front of the kids, saying they waited for the children to go to bed.
Diego Arambula was rested, the jury took a break.
Joachin Arambula was called to the stand.
The defense asked about the CPS investigation.
Dr. Arambula said they went to his home and did a search, deciding to place no restrictions or conditions on the family, and that the girls could return home.
Dr. Arambula answered questions about the day before alleged incident on Dec 8, 2018.
He said his wife was there and her brother and his two sons came over. The kids got in a fight, and one of his brother-in-law’s sons cried.
Defense Attorney Michael Ead asked about the bedtime routine. Dr. Arambula said he was in charge of baths, blow drying the girls hair, and they would read stories, and podcasts.
Ead threw a series of questions at Dr. Arambula – if he spanked, punched or hit his daughter. He replied each time, “no, never.”
He said they do timeouts in which he hugs his kids from behind. “She’s not vomiting from this,” he said, referring to his daughter’s earlier testimony that he squeezed her so hard she threw up.
Defense Attorney Michael Ead showed the jury photos of room where the alleged incident took place on December 9, 2018.
Dr. Arambula described the room, talking about the layout of his daughter’s bedroom, saying it’s a mess.
He described a yellow comforter which was his middle daughter’s, and said the room was the same as the day of the incident.
ADA Wright took over questioning. Arambula told Wright that it’s not lost on him that the DA’s office decided to file a charge in this case during the Sunshine Week.
Dr. Arambula said he wants the facts to get out. And he spoke of his child involved with his push for children’s rights as an Assembyman, and caring for people in his career as a doctor.
The defense showed video of his eldest daughter speaking at a children’s right event at Fresno State.
Just before the lunch break, Dr. Arambula described to his Attorney Michael Ead the series of events on the night of the alleged incident.
Arambula told the jury that he heard his middle daughter’s screams from behind a bedroom door. He went into the room to see what was wrong. The room was dark, with fairy lights offering the only light. He said he could still see his middle daughter, holding her eye, and his older daughter jumping on the bed.
Arambula said that he was worried that she would fall so he grabbed her. She was flailing, and for what he said was the first time ever, he spanked her two times on her bottom.
ADA Steve Wright continued questioning Arambula, who added commentary about the accusation against him not being true.
Dr. Arambula was asked to describe the night.
He said his middle daughter was “screaming, holding her eye.” He continued “It was dark, but I could see her holding her eye, she was crying – she was in pain – she had been asleep. It didn’t make sense to me how things had gone sideways so quickly. I see her jumping back and forth and trying to figure out what as going on.”
He said she (his 7 year-old) jumped from her bed toward the foot of the bed, “and for whatever reason I was petrified, I was worried she was going to land wrong,” he said. “I held her like a young child, I held her in my arms as you would a young child.”
“All I remember it was a hectic situation in a dark room,” said Dr. Arambula. “I was grasping her, I had to hold her because of where she jumped, and it was in that process of me trying to hold her.”
“Was she kicking?” “She was flailing, she was throwing her arms around,” said Dr. Arambula.
Arambula said his oldest daughter told him she was angry with him, and continued to be angry the next day – the day that the school called CPS.
ADA Wright kept pressing Arambula asking if he knows the dangers of hitting a child in head. “Yes.” Would two spanks leave a bruise on (her) head? “No.”
Judge Alvin Harrell asked if Dr. Arambula needed to get some water, and told him to take a breath, then he called a recess.
The jury returned at 1:30p.m., and when asked point-blank by Defense Attorney Michael Aed; “Did you touch your daughter?” Dr. Arambula said “No.”
Did you intentionally hit your daughter in the face?” “No Sir,” said Dr. Arambula.
During the final cross examination, ADA Steve Wright asked “Isn’t it true you went into your daughter’s room and hit her on the side of the head?”
Dr. Arambula replied, “No. I can’t say it any more strongly than that.”
Both sides rested.
The rebuttal, closing statements, and jury instructions will begin Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at 9:30am.
Click to listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern: