Did Arambula ‘slap’ his child? Cops’ testimony ends prosecution phase of Assemblyman’s trial

Prosecutors in the trial of Fresno Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula concluded testimony from witnesses in their case Thursday morning, with defense testimony set to begin Friday.

Arambula is fighting a misdemeanor child abuse allegation stemming from a bruise on the head of his eldest daughter, who is 7. He was cited for the allegation in December and charged by the Fresno County District Attorney’s office in March.

Stephen Phebus, the first Fresno police officer who responded to the girl’s school, and detective Ken Dodd, who conducted follow-up interviews, continued their testimony Thursday.

Under cross examination, Phebus testified he’d decided to arrest Arambula without seeking input from any other officer, solely based on the child’s interview.

After the arrest, Phebus took Arambula to a holding cell at Fresno Police Department.

Phebus testified that during his interview with the child, she indicated her father had hit her in the ears. When Phebus asked her to demonstrate how her father struck her, she said Arambula had placed his body on her and pinched her cheeks in order to close her mouth.

Defense attorney Michael Aed asked Phebus if the alleged victim had used the word “slap” to describe what happened to her. “I can’t remember the exact words,” he answered.

Phebus also testified that he did not ask if child abuse had been a previous issue with the alleged victim in the past.

Thursday’s court hearing closed with Aed making a motion to dismiss the case, based on insufficient evidence and inconsistencies in the prosecution’s testimony. Judge Alvin M. Harrell, III sided with the prosecution and denied the request.

Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright agreed there are “minor inconsistencies,” in the alleged victim’s testimony, but said there was consistent information that Arambula hit his daughter.

Related stories from Fresno Bee