Virginia: Father who beat daughter with dog leash is sentenced to prison

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A state appeals court upheld the child cruelty conviction of a Virginia father who argued that prosecutors were unable to show he violated the law because “his sole purpose was to discipline his son.”

James Eberhardt was convicted of the injuries his 9-year-old daughter received in December 2019 when he struck her with the webbed part of the ‘belt’ of a dog leash, causing redness, bruising and line marks on the back of her legs and the buttocks.

WTOP-FM reports that Eberhardt argued in his appeal that prosecutors had not shown that the punishment constituted a “beating” or proven the intent required for a child cruelty conviction.

The Virginia Court of Appeals upheld his conviction last month.

“The statute does not prohibit a parent from using corporal punishment to discipline a child, but requires a parent to use restraint in doing so. The evidence here supports the lower court’s conclusion that the appellant’s conduct exceeded the limits of due restraint and, together with at least criminally negligent intent, constituted a beating, ”the court wrote in its ruling.

Eberhardt, from Dinwiddie County, south of Richmond, was sentenced to five years in prison, with a three-year, seven-month suspension.

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