From the daily archives: Monday, June 11, 2012

Stepfather in hot water for beating kid


TODAY’s Lester Holt speaks to the grandfather of a little boy who was whipped with a belt by his stepfather in their yard, a shocking incident caught on tape by a neighbor that prosecutors considering felony charges now have.

>>> accused of beating his stepson during a game of catch. a neighbor caught the whole thing on his cell phone camera. we’ll hear from the boy’s grandfather in just a moment. first details on what happened from nbc’s veronica dela cruz.

>> reporter: when officer lopez looked out the window last wednesday, you saw his neighbor anthony sanchez in the yard with his stepson, whipping the young boy with a belt during a game of catch.

>> as it went on, i realized that what i was looking at was not just a parent disciplining their child.

>> reporter: but the beating didn’t stop. so oscar decided to get involved.

>> that’s enough! that’s enough! me, yeah, me. you having a problem with the way i’m raising my kid?

>> i’m having a problem with you [ bleep ] beating him because he won’t catch the ball.

>> the boy suffers from adhd.

>> i’m a [ bleep ] father too.

>> do you know how he acts?

>> there’s got to be a better way to treat him than trying to teach him to catch a ball like that.

>> why don’t you come over and teach ne?

>> oscar was so outraged with the way the boy was being treated, he put the video on youtube. that caught the attention of the sheriff’s department. their investigation led sanchez to turn himself in on friday. he was booked on felony child abuse charges and posted $100,000 bail.

>> it was his intention always, regardless of what the charges were, to turn himself in and make himself available to the judicial process for this matter.

>> reporter: sanchez is said to be cooperating with the police. the district attorney will review the case before deciding what, if any, formal charges are appropriate.

>> i think if anybody witnesses anything like this, you shouldn’t stand by. if anything, i wish i’d called the authorities much sooner.

>> reporter: for “today,” veronica dela cruz, nbc news.

>> ryan is anthony sanchez ‘s attorney, and zach ‘s grandfather. gentlemen, good morning. thanks for coming on. jerry, let me start with you. zach is actually in alabama . i know he and your daughter left for alabama on a previously planned trip the day after this video was shot. how is he doing?

>> he’s doing okay. we keep him separated from hearing everything that’s going on, he’s okay. he’s concerned, and the longer this goes on, he’s concerned that he’s going to be removed from — his quote to me is from his mother and anthony .

>> he was examined. he was not injured.

>> right. he was examined. they met us at the airport when they flew in with our dhr and the birmingham police. they reviewed him. there were no bruises. there was one little mark, which he said he had incurred previously. zach and i have a tremendous bond. i love him with all my heart. i would let no one harm him. if i had any inclination that someone was harming him, i would not let them come close to him.

>> you’re defending anthony ‘s actions in this case?

>> absolutely.

>> keep in mind, what we’re showing here in this beating video, we’ve compressed the time line . this happened over seven minutes. is there any excuse, whether it was a dropped ball . is there any excuse for that kind of behavior?

>> first of all, lester, it wasn’t about playing catch. people that know the history of — like i say, i love zach with all my heart. he is a blessing in my life. anthony is in a difficult position. when zach — when i talked to zach , zach said, well, papa had — he calls them bad days . i call them episodes where he says mean things. so before the ball was — i had to even recommend to anthony two days prior, throw the ball with him and catch some.

>> you’re suggesting that he was mouthing off?

>> yes, he was. zach told me that. he said —

>> i said, zach , what was going on? he said, i was saying real mean things. and the reason i know that is because i’ve seen that. i’ve coached him in football. i’ve seen that behavior.

>> i hear what you’re saying, but i think a lot of folks look at that and go, even if he’s mouthing off, does that justify taking a belt to him?

>> i would say anthony had excessive spanking. he spanked him a little too much, but anthony , again, is in a very difficult situation. he’s trying to be a stepfather for a child that has some behavioral issues, a child that i love dearly, like i said, that’s blessed my life. and on top of that, they’re — and this is all documented. zach and my daughter, they’re going to behavioral counseling in california. the first thing that they try time-out. they try removing things. but it’s documented in his church. it’s documented at school. when the spanking discipline has worked. it’s helped his behavior.

>> let me turn to ryan. your client was a public official . he resigned, i understand, his position with the irrigation — the water board . i don’t know the exact title. i apologize. what is his legal jeopardy now or his legal status ?

>> well, under the charges that the sheriff’s department has recommended be brought against my client, he’s facing up to six years in state prison . as someone who prosecuted cases like this and has defended a number of cases like this, i can only come to one conclusion, and that’s mr. sanchez is being treated extraordinarily harshly because of his public position. this is a case that i would have expected to see misdemeanor charges filed at the most. he’s cooperating at every stage, and we even set up this initial review by child protective services in alabama because we knew that it would show that there were no marks as a result of this spanking.

>> you came forward on his behalf to authorities after the tape came out?

>> after the tape came out, we initiated contact with the authorities, and we offered our help. and we let them know because dana and zach were en route to alabama at the time. law enforcement didn’t know where they were.

>> take a look at this video. is it hard to defend him when you look at this? keep in mind, there was no sound recorded here. so we don’t know what’s being said. but if you’re law enforcement and you’re looking at this video, what would you do?

>> and i understand the video is difficult to watch, and disciplining children is a personal choice. people set the bar for right and wrong, but the question here, was this a legal violation? california law is very clear that parents can spank and that it’s not against the law to use something other than your hand to spank. and so the question is was this unreasonable or excessive under the circumstances? and the facts have to come out about those circumstances through the judicial process .

>> and a lot more certainly on tape. again, we compressed that time line on the tape, just to be clear on that. thank you both so much for coming on and talking about this. we look forward to following up with you as it progresses.

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