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Court upholds Virginia father’s child cruelty conviction

(AP) A state appeals court has upheld the child cruelty conviction of a Virginia father who argued that prosecutors failed to prove he broke the law because “his only purpose was to discipline his child.”

James Eberhardt was convicted for injuries his 9-year-old daughter received in December 2019 when he hit her with the webbed “belt” portion of a dog leash, causing redness, bruising and linear marks on the backs of her legs and buttocks.

WTOP-FM reports that Eberhardt argued in his appeal that prosecutors hadn’t demonstrated the punishment constituted a “beating,” or proved the intent required for a child cruelty conviction.

The Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction last month.

“The statute does not prohibit a parent from using corporal punishment to discipline a child, but it requires a parent to employ moderation in doing so. The evidence here supports the trial court’s finding that the appellant’s conduct exceeded the bounds of due moderation and, coupled with at least criminally negligent intent, constituted a beating,” the court wrote in its ruling.

Eberhardt, of Dinwiddie County, south of Richmond, was sentenced to five years in prison, with three years and seven months suspended.

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