A couple who spanked their young children on their bare bottoms with wooden dowels in keeping with the teachings of the church they belonged to were convicted Friday night of child abuse, the last of eight people connected to the church charged with abuse.
Matthew Caminiti, 29, was convicted of four of the five counts of child abuse he faced, while his wife, Alina Caminiti, 27, of Black Earth, was convicted of all three counts she faced after a weeklong jury trial in Dane County Circuit Court.
Matthew Caminiti is the son of Philip Caminiti, who led the Aleitheia Bible Church in Black Earth, where parents were taught to strike their children, including infants, on their bare buttocks with wooden dowels to teach them to behave correctly. Sheriff’s deputies arrested several members of the church in November 2010.
The couple’s trial was delayed by constitutional challenges to the charges defending their rights as parents to discipline their children and to practice religion as they choose.
Philip Caminiti was convicted after a trial in 2012 of eight counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse and was sentenced in May 2012 to two years in prison.
In the case against Matthew and Alina Caminiti, prosecutors alleged they hit their two children first with a wooden spoon and with a dowel when they were as young as 6 weeks old.
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Matthew Caminiti admitted that he used a dowel and that it was supposed to be painful to the children, Assistant District Attorney Greg Venker said during opening statements. Alina Caminiti said they did it when the children were not listening, not being quiet or were getting mad, Venker said.
Lawyers for the Caminitis said there wasn’t evidence that the spankings occurred and faulted steps taken by investigators and others before charges were filed.
Each count carries up to three years in prison and three years of extended supervision when the couple are sentenced by Dane County Circuit Judge Ellen Berz in May.
Philip Caminiti’s brother, John Caminiti, pleaded guilty in 2011 to child abuse and causing mental harm to a child, and received a one-year prison sentence, but that was later changed to three years of probation.
Three other co-defendants pleaded guilty and entered into deferred prosecution agreements. One more, Maria Stephenson, was found guilty by a jury of child abuse in 2012 and was sentenced to six months in jail.