By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Hawai'i's appellate courts have revisited the thorny question of when parental discipline becomes child abuse, this time overturning the criminal conviction of a stepfather who used a belt to spank his child.
The defendant, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jerry Robertson, was convicted of abuse of a household member in 2007.
The boy, 8 years old at the time, was bruised by the punishment but otherwise uninjured.
Family Court Judge Patrick Border sentenced Robertson to 10 days in jail and two years of probation, but delayed imposition of the sentence while the case was appealed.
This week, the state Intermediate Court of Appeals reversed the conviction in an 11-page decision written by Chief Judge Craig Nakamura.
According to case files, Robertson and his wife, also a staff sergeant in the Marine Corps, has previously used noncorporal punishment for misbehavior by the boy.
The spanking took place after the boy came home from school and lied to Robertson about his behavior at school.
"He lied to parents by saying he had 'a good day,' and he did not tell them about the negative note (from his teacher) in his notebook," the court decision said.
"Robertson soon discovered the negative note as well as an accumulation of other recent negative notes in the notebook of which Robertson had not previously been aware," the ruling said.
Because noncorporal punishment " such as taking away such privileges as television, toys, his allowance and sports " had not worked, Robertson told the boy to go to another room to be spanked.
What's your take on this, moms and dads?