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California Assembly member charged with child cruelty

FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2016 file photo, Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Kingsburg, speaks at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. California prosecutors are charging Arambula with misdemeanor cruelty to a child, which could bring six months in jail. Fresno County's district attorney said Tuesday, March 12, 2019, that Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula is charged with inflicting unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors on Tuesday charged a member of the state Assembly with misdemeanor cruelty to a child, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, 41, is charged with inflicting unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp announced. Neither she nor Arambula's attorneys immediately provided details on the allegations.

The Fresno Democrat was arrested and soon released in December after officials at Dailey Elementary Charter School learned of an injury on his 7-year-old daughter and reported it to child protective services and the police.

His three daughters, ages 3, 6 and 7, stayed with his parents for two nights but were then allowed to return home to Arambula and his wife, Elizabeth.

Arambula is a former emergency room physician who was elected in 2016 to represents parts of Fresno County.

His office referred calls for comment to defense attorney Margarita Martinez-Baly, who did not immediately respond to telephone and emailed requests for comment from The Associated Press. Fellow defense attorney Michael Aed also did not respond to telephone and email messages.

Arambula is set to be arraigned Wednesday.

Arambula said in December that he had spanked his daughter as discipline, calling it a tool he rarely uses.

But Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer disputed that it was a simple spanking on the buttocks.

"There was an injury," Dyer said at the time. "I can't get into the details of where (Arambula's daughter's) injury was, but it was not on the buttocks."

Dyer said Arambula was arrested on suspicion of a misdemeanor, not a felony, because the injury did not require medical attention. He said 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.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon did not immediately comment.

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