Man Who Whipped Stepson Is ‘Good With Kids,’ Lawyer Said
x(NEW YORK) -- A lawyer for the man arrested for allegedly beating his stepson during a game of catch said the man 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," Ryan Childers, an attorney for Anthony Sanchez, told ABC News 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts. "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.
Watch the full story on the ABC News 20/20 special "Losing It!" Friday at 9 p.m. ET
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