FRESNO, CA (KMJ) – A Fresno jury on Thursday returned a not-guilty verdict in the trial Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula.
The 41-year-old Fresno democrat was facing one count of misdemeanor child abuse following his arrest in December.
He said his 7-year-old daughter acted out and he spanked her, the next day CPS was called to his daughter’s elementary school.
The verdict was read at 3:30 pm after two weeks of testimony, that brought his two daughters and a series of police, educators,family members, friends and doctors to the stand.
The defense was making its case that Arambula’s 7-year-old daughter exaggerated the incident, while the prosecution called his discipline heavy-handed.
The Fresno Police Department had cited the assemblyman back on December 10, 2018 on the misdemeanor charge and he was released.
The Fresno County District Attorney’s office filed the charge in March.
Arambula took a leave-of-absence from the Assembly shortly afterward.
His eldest daughter had been first on the stand last Friday, answering questions, holding a stuffed animal, with her grandfather Juan Arambula by her side.
While waiting for the jury to enter Judge Alvin Harrell’s Courtroom 74 at Fresno County Superior Court, Dr. Arambula was smiling, talking to family sitting in the rows on the defense side, looking much happier than he had been for the trial.
Judge Harrell called the court to order, and Dr. Arambula got seated, waiting next to his defense team, looking more solemn as he prepared for the decision from the 6 male and 6 female jurors.
When the jury read the verdict, a cheer went up from his family.
— KMJNOW (@KMJNOW) May 16, 2019
His wife, Elizabeth started crying, and other family members were hugging and crying.
Judge Alvin Harrell said “thank you sir, and good luck to you.”
His defense attorneys, Michael Ead and Margarita Martinez-Baly commented afterwards that Dr. Arambula’s reputation had been tarnished despite the result, calling it a “Scarlett Letter”.
They believed the case was politically motivated, blaming the Fresno District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp.
During the trial, Fresno Police Detective Ken Dodd was asked on the stand how often they would conduct MDIC interviews when it’s a misdemeanor case.
He said only 4 or 5 times out of the 1000 cases annually.
Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright, speaking outside the front of the courthouse said that it was not politically motivated, and he was disappointed with the verdict.
He said the DA’s Office will continue to investigate any claims of child abuse for the safety of the children.
Assemblyman Arambula and his lawyers held a press conference immediately after the verdict, the media walking blocks to the Kern Street, where the impromptu event was held in the lobby of the Central California Legal Services building.
Dr. Arambula stood with his wife, and parents, and other family and friends behind him, thanking them for being his “rock and foundation.”
He asked the media to allow his family and children to move forward from “this nightmare.”
“Thank you for recognizing that I am a good father and did nothing to harm my children,” said Dr. Arambula.
After the verdict @drarambulaAD31 speaks with his family behind him, thanking them for being “my rock and my foundation” and asking that media allow his family and children to move forward from “this nightmare” pic.twitter.com/e7w6WMba8j
— KMJNOW (@KMJNOW) May 16, 2019
If he had been found guilty, Arambula could have faced as much as six months in jail.
He said it was time to go home to his children” to sit and to play with my girls on the ground, to tuck them into bed tonight, to read them a story and to let them know that their family loves them and will always love them,” said Arambula.
Dr. Arambula vowed to be back in the state assembly on Monday, May 20, 2019.
Click to listen to the report by KMJ’s Liz Kern: