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.
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.
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.''