An Alaska woman who punished her adopted son with hot sauce and cold shower was convicted of one misdemeanor count of child abuse Tuesday.
Jessica Beagley, 36, of Anchorage made national headlines and sparked off international outrage for punishing her adopted son by squirting hot sauce into his mouth and forcing him to take cold showers in what prosecutors said was an attempt to get on the Dr. Phil TV show.
The jury delivered its verdict after one day of deliberations, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The viewers of the Dr. Phil show were shocked to watch a video showing Beagley pouring hot sauce down the throat of her 7-year-old son and forcing him into a cold shower as a punishment for misbehaving in school. Prosecutors said that the video was filmed by her 10-year-old daughter.
The punishment in this case was over the top, it was too much, it was abusive. But mostly it was unnecessary, prosecutor Cynthia Franklin told the jury. There was only one reason she had to do it, and you know what that reason is. She had to do it to show Dr. Phil just how angry she was.
Beagley contacted the show after seeing a segment in April 2009 called Angry Moms, according to the Associated Press. A year and a half later, people from the show responded and asked if she was still angry.
She said yes and sent in a video of her yelling at her children. But the Dr. Phil show said it needed to see her punishing her six kids, prosecutors said.
So Beagley taped the hot sauce and cold shower punishment and days later was on her way to the show.
A viewer referred the case to state authorities after Beagley appeared on the show.
Beagley and her husband adopted the boy and his twin brother from Russia in 2008. They were five years old at the time.
When the show aired in November 2010, it sparked public outrage in Russia. Russian TV crews were present on the courtroom, showing the keen interest of the nation in the case.
Defense attorney William Ingaldson argued that while his client had made bad parenting choices, none of Beagley's methods amounted to cruelty or torture.
To me the way the law is written now it doesn't give guidance to parents what they can and cannot do, what type of punishment is not acceptable, and I think that anytime you have a law where you're going to criminalize behavior, the law should reflect and give you strong guidance as to what is acceptable and not acceptable, said Ingaldson.
But Franklin said justice was meted out in the case and that the jury applied law to facts and concluded that it is cruel punishment when you pile punishments on top of one another and have your other child videotape it so you can get on a television show.
Sentencing is scheduled for Monday. Beagley could be fined as much as $10,000 fine and could be sent to prison for one year.
Ingaldson will request that Beagley receive no jail time. Asked if the children could be taken from the family, he said the Office of Children's Services had already investigated and found no reason to take action.