Capitol Alert

Child abuse allegation against California lawmaker ‘troubling,’ Assembly speaker says

The leader of the California Assembly said Friday the Fresno police report that Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula illegally injured his child is concerning but indicated he wants to wait before taking action.

“The allegation made against Assemblymember Arambula is troubling and warrants full investigation,” Anthony Rendon said in a statement. “As I’ve consistently maintained, I believe in due process prior to coming to a final judgment.”

Arambula was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor child cruelty Monday after Child Protective Services called police to his 7-year-old daughter’s school.

The Fresno County Republican Party has called on Rendon to ask Arambula to resign. Arambula has said he doesn’t plan to quit the Legislature over the allegations.

The former emergency room physician from Fresno has said he spanked his daughter for acting out the night before but doesn’t believe he did anything criminal.

Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said Thursday that Arambula’s daughter was injured in an area that was not her buttocks. Child privacy laws prevented him from giving more detail, Dyer said.

“It is important for people to know that when you discipline a child, and you spank them on the buttocks, it is perfectly allowable by law,” Dyer said. “However, when the level of discipline rises to the level where there is an injury, then that is a violation of the law.”

As of Thursday, Arambula had not yet been formally charged with a crime. Dyer said he expects the case to be submitted to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office next week. If convicted, he could face up to six months in jail and a possible probation term.

The California Legislature is currently on a winter break and will return for the 2019 legislative session next month.

In the past, some lawmakers have been suspended or forced to resign over allegations of wrongdoing.

Former Sens. Ron Calderon of Montebello and Leland Yee of San Francisco were suspended from the Legislature in 2014 after they were indicted in separate federal corruption cases. The chamber also suspended former Sen. Rod Wright that year after he was convicted of felony perjury and voting fraud. Wright ultimately resigned. Yee and Calderon termed out later that year.

All three continued to be paid during their suspensions. In response, California voters in 2016 passed Proposition 50 to let lawmakers suspend their colleagues without pay. The Legislature has yet to use that new ability.

Last year, Assemblymen Matt Dababneh and Raul Bocanegra resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. Sen. Tony Mendoza, who also faced sexual misconduct accusations, was forced to resign earlier this year.