MADISON (AP) – A Wisconsin couple who cited their religious beliefs in using wooden dowels to discipline their children were sentenced to 18 months of probation Friday after being convicted of child abuse.
Dane County Circuit Judge Ellen Berz said that regardless of what their church taught them, Matthew Caminiti, 30, and his wife, 27-year-old Alina Caminiti, should have known that striking their young children, including infants, on their bare bottoms with wooden dowels was wrong and misguided.
“The troubling part is that this behavior is not simply illegal,” Berz said, “it is obviously wrong, just wrong, and you could not, with your intelligence and your love for your children, recognize that.”
In March, a jury found Matthew Caminiti guilty of four counts of child abuse and Alina Caminiti guilty of three counts. The couple said in court Friday that they stopped punishing their children with rods once they learned it was illegal, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“Despite a belief founded in Scripture, they were willing and did modify their behavior,” said Jeffrey Nichols, Alina Caminiti’s lawyer.
Assistant District Attorney Greg Venker agreed with the couple’s lawyers to recommend 18 months of probation.
The Caminitis were members of the Aleitheia Bible Church in Black Earth. The church was led by Matthew Caminiti’s father, Philip Caminiti, who preached that children were to be disciplined with rods, as instructed by the Bible, to cure them of selfish behavior.
Philip Caminiti was found guilty after a trial in 2012 of conspiracy to commit child abuse, and he received a two-year prison sentence. He argued on appeal that prosecutors violated his free-speech right to advocate for the use of force and his right to religious freedom. His attorney has asked the state Supreme Court to review the case.