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Video: Stepfather charged in beating caught on camera

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    >>> we begin with a california man charged with child abuse after a startling video was posted on line. nbc's mara schiavocampo joins us this morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, ann. the video is disturbing to watch. a man caught on camera hitting his stepson with a belt as they are throwing around the ball in the backyard. he's seen here in this secretly recorded cell phone video playing catch. when he dropped the ball he approaches and reportedly whips him with a belt. the video that's gone viral was shot by an outraged neighbor as he looked out his window.

    >> as it went on, i realized what i was looking at was not a parent whipping a child.

    >> he reportedly suffers from adhd. after it was posted on youtube and he handed it over to authorities, sanchez turned himself in. he was booked on child abuse charges.

    >> california law recognizes parents' right to spank their children. it's not illegal to spank their children with something other than their hand. so there's a real fine line there.

    >> reporter: sanchez , a california water agency director resigned from his elected office after the arrest. on sunday the boy's grandfather and on "today." he called his son-in-law's actions excessive but stands by him.

    >> anthony is in a difficult situation. he's trying to be a stepfather for a a child that has some behavioral issues. the first thing, they try time-out. they try removing things. it's documented at church, documented at school. spanking discipline has worked. it's helped his behavior.

    >> he denied it had anything to do with the game of catch. instead he said the boy was mouthing off.

    >> he said papa -- he calls them bad days. i call them episodes where he says mean things.

    >> reporter: sanchez , who has no prior record of child abuse was eventually confronted by his neighbor. their argument caught on tape.

    >> that's enough [ bleep ] stick. that's enough.

    >> me, yeah, me.

    >> i'm having a bleep problem with you for beating --

    >> do you know my son.

    >> i don't know your son but i'm watching you. i'm a father, too.

    >> how he acts.

    >> there's got to be a better way to teach him with a ball than that.

    >> teach me.

    >> the attorney will review the case before deciding if any formal charges are appropriate. according to sanchez 's attorney child services examined the boy, reportedly there were no marks on the child related to the incident. he says his client is remorseful and the child is with his mother on a previously planned vacation. ann.

TODAY contributor
updated 6/11/2012 9:44:10 AM ET 2012-06-11T13:44:10

California water agency official Anthony Sanchez has resigned his position and could face child abuse charges after he was caught on camera whipping his stepson with a belt.

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Video: Stepfather charged in beating caught on camera (on this page)
The seven-minute cell-phone video, now gone viral, was shot by outraged neighbor Oscar Lopez through his window last week. After Lopez posted it on YouTube and gave it to police, Sanchez turned himself in on Friday. He was arrested on suspicion of felony child abuse, and posted $100,000 bail.

On Saturday, Sanchez quit his position with the Imperial Irrigation District, according to his attorney, Ryan Childers.

The district attorney is currently reviewing the case to decide what charges, if any, are appropriate against Sanchez, who has no prior history of child abuse. The felony child abuse charges recommended by the sheriff’s department carry a sentence of up to six years in state prison, according to Childers.

“I can only come to one conclusion and that’s Mr. Sanchez is being treated extraordinarily harshly because of his public position,’’ Childers told Lester Holt on TODAY Sunday. “This is a case that I would’ve expected to see misdemeanor charges filed at the most.”

Sanchez’s 10-year-old stepson, Zach, who reportedly suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), was examined by child protective services in Alabama. No marks were found on him, said Childers. The boy is currently with his mother on a previously planned vacation.

Video: Grandfather defends dad caught beating boy in video (on this page)

After filming the incident, Lopez confronted Sanchez in an expletive-laden exchange also caught on tape. Lopez believed the beating occurred because the young boy dropped a ball in a game of catch.

“As it went on, I realized that what I was looking at was not just a parent disciplining a child,’’ Lopez told NBC News.

“It's important for people to understand that California law recognizes parents right to spank their children, and it's also not illegal under California law for parents to spank their children with something other than their hand, so there's a real fine line there,’’ Childers told NBC News.

The boy’s grandfather, Terry Grammar, called Sanchez’s spanking “excessive’’ in an interview with Lester Holt on TODAY Sunday, but stood by him. He added that the boy is concerned that he will be removed from his mother and stepfather.

“Anthony is in a very difficult situation he's trying to be a stepfather for a child that has some behavioral issues,’’ Grammar said. “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.’’

Grammar claimed the incident had nothing to do with the boy dropping the ball, but happened because he was mouthing off to his stepfather. Grammar added that he loves Zach and the two have a special bond, but that he has witnessed Zach’s disruptive behavior in the past.

“When I talked to Zach, Zach said, 'Papa I had,' he calls them 'bad days.' I call them episodes where he says mean things,’’ Grammar said. “I’ve seen that behavior.’’

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