comscore Isle woman’s conviction overturned in case of child abuse on plane | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Isle woman’s conviction overturned in case of child abuse on plane

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Samantha Leialoha Watanabe walks outside of federal court in Honolulu on May 22, 2015. U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi today overturned the conviction and ordered a new trial for Watanabe, found guilty of assaulting her 15-month-old daughter on a flight from Alaska in May, 2015.

A federal judge has overturned the conviction of a Hawaii mother found guilty of assaulting her 15-month-old daughter on a flight from Alaska.

U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi’s ruling today orders a new trial for Samantha Watanabe. A jury convicted her of assault in 2015.

Prosecutors said she cursed at her daughter, smacked her in the head, hit her in the face with a stuffed doll and yanked out tufts of her hair.

Defense attorneys argued the allegations were fabricated by judgmental passengers who didn’t like how Watanabe looked and dressed her child.

Kobayashi’s ruled that the magistrate judge abused his discretion by allowing prosecutors to present lay opinion testimony about what constitutes proper parental discipline.

Watanabe was sentenced to a month in jail and three months’ home confinement.

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