Man Who Whipped Stepson Charged With Felony Child Abuse

Anthony Sanchez' lawyer said Sanchez was just giving stepson 'discipline.'

June 20, 2012, 2:57 PM

June 22, 2012 — -- quicklist: 1title: text: A California district attorney's office filed two felony charges today against the man caught on camera beating his stepson with a belt during a game of catch.

Anthony Sanchez is charged with corporal injury to a child and child abuse. The complaint by Imperial County, Calif. District Attorney Gilbert Otero alleges Sanchez inflicted "…cruel and inhuman corporal punishment and injury…unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering …"

Each charge carries with it a maximum sentence of six years.

Ryan Childers, a lawyer representing Sanchez, was not immediately available for comment.

In an interview with "20/20" correspondent Deborah Roberts, taped before the district attorney filed charges, Childers said: "…the charges in this case… require a finding that my client's conduct would've resulted in great bodily injury or death to the child, I don't think that that can be met in this case."

Sanchez will be arraigned on July 10.

Childers also said that Sanchez was a loving father whose actions were misinterpreted.

"This is a case of a video where people interpret it as a father who lost it," he said. "But this is a father who was trying to give a child discipline."

The discipline was not related to playing catch, Childers said. It was related to what the boy, whose name is Zack, was saying during the game, he said.

"My client's position ... is that discipline is appropriate in certain circumstances," Childers said, "and that he had been told that spanking was an effective means for behavior modification with Zack."

Despite this defense, and despite the fact that, according to Childers, Zack wasn't hurt, Sanchez felt remorse, Childers said.

"Everybody that has anything to say about him says that he's a good guy," Childers said. "He's a cool-headed guy, and he's good with kids."

On June 6, in Heber, Calif., Oscar Lopez heard a commotion in a neighbor's yard, saw Sanchez, 34, and the boy, and started videotaping.

On the recording, which Lopez posted on YouTube and gave to police, when the boy dropped the ball, Sanchez approached and whipped him with his belt. Lopez soon began shouting at Sanchez to stop, and the two men argued.

Sanchez, who at the time of the incident was an elected official directing a state water agency, was arrested on suspicion of felony child abuse. He has since resigned his office.

Psychiatrist Janet Taylor said Sanchez' getting caught "losing it" could end up helping him and Zack in the long term.

"What Mr. Sanchez can do is take a step back and say, 'Thank goodness it was caught; I'm going to get help; I'm not going to replicate this, and my family can be emotionally healthier in years to come," Taylor told Roberts.

That best-case scenario notwithstanding, psychiatrist and author Gail Saltz said kids of parents who "lose it" don't just fear them -- they emulate them.

"[Losing It] teaches [kids] that an adult is able to act disrespectfully, violently, aggressively," Saltz said. "All that does is teach them to do the same thing. ... Children don't do what you say; children do what you do."

While Sanchez and Zack were playing in their backyard, parents often are seen losing it in more formal sports venues, from youth soccer matches to Little League games. Bad sportsmanship among parents is such a problem that Little League Baseball produced a public service announcement to address the issue. Click through to see three more surprising examples of parents losing it at children's sporting events.

Watch the full story on the "20/20" special "Losing It!" now

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quicklist: 2title: Hockey Mom Tries to Stop Brawltext: When referees appeared to take too long to break up a fight among players at a youth hockey game in Boston, one mom took matters into her own hands.

A video posted to YouTube earlier this month showed hockey mom Gina O'Toole storming onto the ice and yelling at referees to break up a fight between players of the Boston Raptors and the Connecticut Tribe, two teams representing Boston youth summer programs. O'Toole's 16-year-old son was one of the players on the ice.

"I've seen fights usually between one or two children and the refs usually step in immediately and break it up. That didn't happen," she told "Good Morning America" earlier this week. "I just found myself opening the gate and walking onto the ice and saying, 'Hey, you need to get control of this game. What are you doing?'"

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quicklist: 3title: Dad Tosses Kid in Youth Wrestling Matchtext: Dan Nasenbeny was videotaping his son Nick's wrestling match in 2007 in Rolling Meadows, Ill., when he saw another dad make a shocking move: The man, the father of Nasenbeny's son's opponent, interrupted the match and threw Nick -- then age 10 -- off the mat because he believed his own son was getting hurt.

The angry father, who was also a part-time wrestling coach, later told a Chicago television station that he felt embarrassed and regretted his behavior.

"Dad definitely lost control. He definitely lost his mind for 15, 20 seconds," Dan Nasenbeny told "20/20." "I'm sure he regrets it to this day."

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quicklist: 4title: Football Dad Rushes Fieldtext: Like hockey mom Gina O'Toole, one California dad was so outraged by how referees were doing their jobs that he, too, interrupted a game. But unlike O'Toole, he wasn't trying to stop a fight between players. The father ran onto the field of his son's youth football game after he believed the referee had been too rough with his child, according to The Bakersfield Californian newspaper, which posted the video to YouTube in 2007. Watch it here.

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