'Hot sauce mom' convicted of child abuse in Alaska
A jury in Anchorage convicted Jessica Beagley, 36, on a misdemeanor child abuse charge after viewing a videotape that Beagley had made. In the video, the boy -- one of two 5-year-old twins she and her husband adopted from Russia in 2008 -- is seen first being force-fed hot sauce and then crying loudly in a cold shower.
"There is no reason in the world why someone has to hurt a child to get on a reality show," prosecutor Cynthia Franklin told the jury in her closing argument.
The case has stirred an outcry in Russia, where reports of children suffering abuse after being adopted in the U.S. prompted Russian authorities last year to order a suspension in international adoptions.
That order followed the case of a Tennessee woman who put her 7-year-old adopted son unaccompanied on a flight back to Moscow with a note saying he had "severe psychopathic issues."
Russia's ombudsman for children's rights, Pavel Astakhov, estimated that 17 Russian children have died as a result of domestic violence in the U.S. since 1992.
"It has been quite a revelation to me that children are being shipped out of Russia in the dozens, without any agreements. ... I say that such agreements should be signed not only with the United States, but also with the U.K., France, Germany and other countries," he told Russian newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta early this year.
The videotape shot at Beagley's direction by her 10-year-old daughter shows Beagley confronting her son over bad behavior and asking him if he knew what the result was going to be. "Hot sauce," he replied.
"Don't you spit at me!" she orders him. Next she is seen forcing him into a cold shower, with the boy's screams audible.
Testimony at trial revealed that Beagley had made the video as an audition tape for a "Mommy Confessions" segment that aired on the "Dr. Phil" show last fall. After previously being passed over for an "Angry Moms" segment in 2009, Beagley was asked by producers to tape actual instances of punishment to determine if she would be included in the new show.
"I think anybody would look at that and say that is absolutely outrageous, it is over the top, it is abusive, it is inefficient, it is -- it is out of control," Dr. Phil McGraw said on the show after portions of the tape are aired.
Her lawyer, William Ingaldson, argued that Beagley had been struggling with the boy's bad behavior for some time, according to the Anchorage Daily News. "The way the law is written ... makes it really difficult for a parent to discipline your kids and not be subject to other people's subjective ideas of what is right or wrong," he told the jury.
Beagley showed no emotion after the verdict was read Tuesday and walked out of the courtroom with her husband, Gary, an Anchorage police officer, without commenting.
Sentencing is set for Monday. Beagley could face up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. Authorities have not said whether the boy, one of six children, will be removed from the home.
--Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Jessica Beagley, left, speaks with her lawyer, William Ingaldson, after the verdict is read. Credit: Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News