FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Trial began today for a former Fresno Police officer charged with two counts of corporal injury to a child.
Jesse Ruelas is accused of hitting the then 14-year-old out of anger, but his attorney contends his client was disciplining a mouthy teen.
Ruelas was in the middle of a bitter divorce at the time of this incident.
The teen admitted on the stand Thursday she was repeatedly questioning him about the split up of the family. He has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges and says he was discipline the child.
Jurors were shown the extended cab truck that Ruelas was driving last May when he is accused of flying off the handle over questioning about why he left his marriage.
The first person to take the stand was the alleged victim. She and Ruelas began to cry almost immediately after she sat down.
During questioning, she was asked how she felt when she was struck four times.
"I was scared," the victim said on the stand. "I wanted the ride to be over with."
The teen admitted her persistent questioning provoked a heated argument and hollering and she said about 5 minutes into the ride home she started probing Ruelas about the family split up that he never really discussed with her.
"He tells her stop it, I don't want to talk about it," defense attorney Roger Wilson said. "She continued talking. He tells her , 'Shut up, be quiet, I don't want to talk about it.' She continued talking. He raised his voice. He yelled, he's a yeller, she continues on."
Prosecutors claim Ruelas slammed his hand on the center console out of anger before repeatedly hitting the girl.
She was seated in the back seat directly behind him. Under cross-examination, she described how it happened, with the palm of his hand striking the side of her head.
"This time, the evidence will show that he turned his body to reach back further, and when he did so, the vehicle swerved," deputy district attorney Nicole Galstan explained.
Ruelas' attorney admitted he hit the girl but claims it was not abuse but lawful discipline. The girl's 10-year-old brother was also in the car and told jurors what he saw.
"While he was turned around, he hit her," he said.
The detective called to a medical office to investigate also described her observation of a lump.
"Above her right ear, near the hairline," Fresno Police detective Lisa Ramos said.
Ruelas is on the witness list. It's unclear whether he will take the stand in his own defense.
Ruelas' family members have said the alleged victim has been brainwashed by her mother.
The trial continues tomorrow.