Assemblyman Arambula’s defense in child abuse trial: He’s loving, doting, mild-mannered

Fresno Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, who is on trial for misdemeanor child abuse, was portrayed by several witnesses on Friday as a loving, doting and caring father who is doing his best to handle a strong-willed child.

After several days of testimony presented by prosecutors, it was Arambula’s defense team’s turn to show the jury another side of the former emergency room doctor, whose 7-year-old daughter has accused her dad of hitting her in the face.

Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright has accused Aramubla of not only striking his daughter to the point of leaving a bruise but also kicking her at times as punishment. He was cited for the allegation in December and charged by the Fresno County District Attorney’s office in March.

But that isn’t the man that they know, six witnesses said in court Friday.

His father, Juan Arambula, who is a former Assemblyman, lawyer and school board member, said that he has never seen that side of his son. If anything, he said Joaquin is too lenient when it comes to punishing his three daughters.

The elder Arambula said he has seen Arambula hold his eldest daughter in his lap to prevent her from squirming away from a timeout.

Juan Arambula said that while his son and oldest daughter have a loving relationship, it is also a challenging one. Arambula described his granddaughter as “spunky” and “bright beyond her years” but whose emotions sometimes get the better of her.

The family’s babysitter Veronica Chavez recalled one incident where the child became very upset about not being allowed to stay up to watch television. And as Chavez was putting one of the girl’s sisters to bed, the oldest daughter came into the room, hitting herself in the head with a book, as a way to get attention.

Chavez said the oldest daughter is “incredibly bright” with an impressive imagination.

One of the defense strategies is to show the jury that Arambula’s daughter has been inconsistent in her version of the events that led to her being hit in the face.

Nathan Miller, Arambula’s brother-in-law, testified that as much as he loves his niece, she is also a bit of a “drama queen” with a strong desire to be right.

He has witnessed several instances where she describes a small skirmish between cousins one way, while he witnessed it happening a different way.

“I don’t know why, but she will stick to her story until the end of time,’ Miller said.

When asked by defense attorney Michael Aed if he had ever seen Arambula lose his temper, Miller said:

“Never,” he said. “He is the most mild-mannered person I have ever met in my life. That’s why this blows my mind.”

Arambula’s trial resumes on Monday.

A Valley native, Robert has worked at The Fresno Bee since 1994, covering various topics including education, business and agriculture. He currently covers courts.