Monday, August 20, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A San Francisco man acted within the bounds of reasonable discipline when he struck his 11-year-old daughter with a belt after she was repeatedly caught stealing, a jury determined today.
Jury members deliberated two hours before acquitting Chaya Chhoeurm, 30, of one count of child abuse and one count of inflicting corporal injury on a child. If convicted, Chhoeurm faced up to a year in jail, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Scott Grant.
Chhoeurm, a carpenter and single father with sole custody of three children, admitted on the stand that he spanked his daughter with a belt after the girl was caught stealing from her teacher. Chhoeurm testified that it was the girl’s third recent stealing incident and he was desperate to find a way to impress upon her the seriousness of the offense.
“As a teenager, Mr. Chhoeurm had been in and out of juvenile hall before finally turning his life around,” Grant said. “He testified that he was terrified his daughter was going down the same path and would be expelled from school and end up in jail.”
The girl suffered bruises on her right side during the April 11 incident. The next day, she told a school counselor, who called police. Chhoeurm was cited April 20.
During the two day trial, Chhoeurm testified that he never meant to injure his daughter. The girl’s school principal also took the stand, describing Chhoeurm as an attentive and involved parent who cared about his children’s education.
San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the jury understood the difference between discipline and child abuse.
“The law allows for parental discipline that doesn’t seriously injure a child physically or mentally,” Adachi said. “By all accounts, Mr. Chhoeurm was a loving father. The jury did not believe his intent was to hurt his daughter.”