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Bountiful City v. Baize

Court of Appeals of Utah

February 14, 2019

Bountiful City, Appellee,
v.
Nathan David Baize, Appellant.

          Second District Court, Bountiful Department The Honorable Glen R. Dawson No. 161800370

          Scott L. Wiggins, Attorney for Appellant

          Jacob L. Fordham, Attorney for Appellee

          Judge David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate Appleby and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.

          OPINION

          MORTENSEN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Utah's criminal law recognizes that a parent may discipline a child. Criminal sanctions may attach, however, when parental discipline exceeds the bounds of reasonableness or where serious physical injury results. After a bench trial, during which the court heard evidence that Nathan David Baize spanked his four-year-old son with enough force to leave a bruise in the shape of a handprint, the court found Baize guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of misdemeanor level child abuse. Baize appeals, claiming the court misconstrued the facts and misapplied the law. We affirm.

         BACKGROUIND[1]

         The Incident of Abuse

         ¶2 In late June 2016, Baize had his four-year-old son (Victim) for weekend parent-time. Baize and Victim's mother (Mother), are divorced and have joint custody of Victim. Victim spends every other weekend with Baize.

         ¶3 On the weekend in question, Victim had been acting up, and Baize and Mother exchanged emails about this behavior. Mother recalled that the emails described Victim as "yelling and screaming, washing out. He was saying terrible things, he was going to hurt people. He was mad. He wanted to go home. He was upset. Completely distraught."

         ¶4 Victim was "throwing temper tantrums, using foul language, [and] saying that he wanted [Baize] dead" on the day of the abuse. The bad behavior escalated during a car ride to a grocery store. Victim began kicking and punching his grandmother, who was with Baize and Victim. It took about an hour to calm down Victim enough to get him strapped in his car seat. Even then, Victim continued to jump up and down, "slamming his rear end on the bottom of the car seat."

         ¶5 Once they got home, Victim continued to fight with Baize. After trying various disciplinary interventions, Baize determined that his last resort was to spank Victim. Baize put Victim over his knee and warned him that he was going to be spanked unless he calmed down. When Victim continued to swear and tell Baize that he hated him, Baize spanked him one time. Baize gave Victim additional warnings, and then spanked him a second and third time.

         ¶6 Eventually, Baize called Mother and asked that she pick up Victim several hours earlier than the planned exchange. While changing Victim's clothes that evening, Mother noticed bruising on his bottom. When she asked Victim what had happened, he responded, "Don't talk to me about this," and requested that everyone leave his room. A few minutes later, Victim disclosed to Mother what had happened. Mother immediately called the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).

         ¶7 The next morning, Mother took photographs of the bruising on Victim's bottom, one of which was introduced as evidence. Mother testified that the photograph accurately depicted the injuries she saw on Victim: "I see fingerprints. I see, that are bruised, bruising, fingerprints. There are lines on his bottom, bruising. There [are] little spots on his bottom that are bruised." Mother stated that she "was pretty sick to [her] stomach" when she saw Victim's injuries.

         ¶8 An investigator from DCFS came by the day after the spanking and advised Mother to call the police about the incident. A detective (Detective) from the Bountiful City Police Department was assigned to the case. Detective arranged an interview for Victim at the Children's Justice Center (CJC Interview). After viewing the photographs and hearing Victim's CJC Interview, Detective determined that he needed to interview Baize.

         ¶9 Detective testified that the photograph introduced at trial depicted signs of redness consistent with diaper rash on Victim's bottom, but he also observed that it showed a yellowish bruise in the shape of "a finger or a handprint." Detective noted that there were no reports indicating that Victim needed medical attention for injuries related to the abuse. Detective also testified that Baize appeared to be in control of what he was doing when he spanked Victim.

         ¶10 Bountiful City (the City) charged Baize with child abuse in violation of Utah Code section 76-5-109(3)(c). Baize pled ...


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