The jury is seated, opening statements delivered and the first witness was called: the trial began Friday for Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula’s misdemeanor child abuse charge. The little girl at the center of it all, his daughter, was first on the stand.
In their opening statements, Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright and Arambula’s defense team maintained their differing accounts of what happened.
“He squeezed her face to shut her up, to get her to be quiet, then smacked her,” Wright said as he slapped his hands together.
Margarita Martinez-Baly, one of Arambula’s attorneys, said her client’s daughter’s story kept changing.
“Her statements were not consistent. They always varied depending on who she was relaying this information to,” she said.
More than a dozen witnesses, including Arambula’s wife, Elizabeth, are set to take the stand during the trial. But, the first one was Arambula’s 7-year-old daughter.
When asked about the night she got a bruise on her head in December, she said it started in her room with her little sister when she threw her sister’s things to the floor.
“My dad came in, he thought I had hurt her,” the 7-year-old said. “He pinned me down on a bed and he grasped my head. His ring finger hit me when he did that.”
Arambula’s daughter explained she knew her father was mad the second he came in because his fists were clenched. She also said her father had a pattern whenever he was mad at her.
“He either starts yelling, or he picks me up and squeezes me really hard. Not like a hug-type, like a hard-squeeze-type,” she said.
When recalling who she told about the incident, Arambula’s daughter said she did use the word “slap,” but would’ve used the word “grasp” if she knew it.
She also said she knew her dad didn’t intentionally hurt her and said her bruise was an accident.
“He was trying to push my head down instead of trying to hurt my head,” she said.
At one point when jurors left the courtroom, the judge instructed Arambula to stop making faces at his daughter while she was on the stand. When Arambula’s defense team cross-examined her, they mainly asked her about how she writes stories.
The trial continues on Monday at 2 p.m.