Celebrity parallel pops up in high profile Fresno County trial against state assembly member

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A celebrity parallel highlighted a contentious hearing Wednesday that decided most of the parameters for the misdemeanor child abuse case against state assembly member Joaquin Arambula.

Arambula's case is a snowball rolling down a mountain right now, but it had a chance to get resolved before trial. Attorneys admitted Wednesday they talked about it, but the discussion created an avalanche of ill will.

The similarity to a controversial celebrity court case popped up in Fresno's highest-profile trial in years.

Dr. Joaquin Arambula made it clear he won't admit to abusing his 7-year-old daughter when the judge asked about negotiations for a plea deal.

"I'm not taking a plea," he said. "I'm not taking a plea."

"We have briefly discussed possibly settling it, but the DA's office is requiring a plea and we're not interested in a plea," said defense attorney Margarita Martinez-Baly.

"Ms. Martinez asked if I could do a "Jussie Smollett" (disposition) and I declined," said prosecutor Steve Wright.

RELATED: Accusations of repeat violence and contradictory statements as trial start for Dr. Joaquin Arambula

"Sure, pretrial," said Martinez-Baly. "Happens all the time."

Judge Alvin Harrell III tried to rein in the attorneys after that exchange, but tensions had already mounted.

Wright took exception to a defense accusation -- in a motion to dismiss the case -- that police and prosecutors illegally obtained CPS records, even though another judge had already told attorneys in the case a 2007 change in the law allowed them to have those case files.

"For the defense to sit here and to file in court and to blast out in the media that Fresno PD did something improper only because this is a political case, a takedown of Dr. Arambula, is hogwash and they know it," he said.

Judge Harrell denied the motion to dismiss.

The main issue at trial will be whether Dr. Arambula simply spanked his daughter, as he told Action News, or if he went further, as the girl told investigators.

"That's abuse if it occurred," said the judge. "I'm not saying it occurred. I'm not saying it didn't occur. But spanking a child on the behind is light years different from abusing the child by slapping his or her ears and leaving marks on a child, squeezing a child. That is not consistent with reasonable discipline."

Arambula plans to testify in his own defense and his attorneys say his version of events is different, and it's the truth. They say the case never should've gotten filed, but now the girl's psychological health is at risk and her parents will have to talk about the 7-year-old in ways they never imagined.

"It's not a comfortable thing to say to anybody, the media or to even a jury, to say 'My daughter's a liar'," said defense attorney Michael Aed.

Opening statements are expected early next week.
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