A California lawmaker arrested earlier this week on suspicion of child cruelty said Thursday that the allegation stemmed from spanking his 7-year-old daughter.
Joaquin Arambula, a Democratic assemblyman, said he spanked his daughter Sunday night and it’s a punishment tool he rarely uses. Elizabeth Arambula, his wife, told CBS News that their daughter was “really angry” that her father spanked her, and “wanted to be heard.”
Arambula said he believes his daughter went to school angry and told a teacher about what had happened. He was arrested Monday after officials at Dailey Elementary Charter School reported a child with an injury, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.
The CBS report said that Arambula said he spanked his daughter on the buttocks, but Dyer said the injury “in this case is not on the buttocks.”
"It is absolutely permissible for a parent to discipline their child by spanking them on the buttocks, but that is not what we are investigating, and that is not where the injury occurred to the child," said Dyer.
Authorities did not go into any more details.
Arambula is a former emergency room doctor who was elected in 2016 to represent parts of Fresno County. He has three daughters, ages 3, 6 and 7.
He was released shortly after his arrest on suspicion of willful cruelty to a child and has not been formally charged. The police plan to send the case to the Fresno County District Attorney next week, according to CBS.
In a statement to the Fresno Bee, Arambula’s attorneys said they’ve “offered to meet with representatives of the... district attorney's office so that relevant information can be presented."
Arambula's daughters stayed with his parents for two nights until child protective services said they could go back home Wednesday, reports said.
“There’s a process to be played out, and this process played out, and they determined that the kids should go back home,” Arambula said. “I’m excited about that. But we have a job and a responsibility to continue to be good parents, and that’s what I want to work on and will strive to do.”
Authorities will check in on the Arambulas in 30 days and suggested the family seek therapy, he said.
Arambula’s arrest was for a misdemeanor, not a felony, because the injury did not require medical attention, Dyer said, according to the Bee. Spanking a child is generally legal if it’s in a fleshy area such as the buttocks but not if it’s in a place likely to cause injury like the face, he said.
Arambula's attorneys emailed Action News a statement in response to the new allegations.
"Mr. Arambula was arrested at the school on December 10, 2018. The children were entrusted to his parents. After a fair and impartial investigation by Child Welfare Services that dispelled concerns about child abuse, his 3 children were returned to his custody on December 12, 2018. Unlike Chief Dyer we will not try this case in the media."
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon hasn’t commented on the arrest.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.