August 24th, 2011
06:33 PM ET

Alaska's 'Hot-sauce Mom' convicted of child abuse

An Alaska mother's segment on "Dr. Phil" has landed her with the possibility of a jail sentence.

Jessica Beagley was found guilty of misdemeanor child abuse Tuesday. In November, she appeared on the talk show to discuss a video she had submitted of her disciplinary method, in which she had her then 6-year-old son hold hot sauce in his mouth and take a cold shower, said Anchorage prosecutor Cynthia Franklin. The video, which Beagley had e-mailed to the show in November 2009, ignited a debate about whether the tactic constituted abuse.

In the episode, which aired on November 17, 2010, host Phil McGraw challenges Beagley, calling the discipline over-the-top, outrageous and abusive. Authorities launched an investigation on the same day the episode, called "Mommy Confessions," aired.

Beagley's sentencing is scheduled for Monday. She could face a up to year in jail and fine of up to $10,000. Franklin said she was unable to provide any more commentary on the case, because Beagley's sentence is still pending.

The segment featured a home movie of Beagley punishing her son for getting in trouble at school and lying about it. In confessional-style explanations, Beagley provided commentary, saying she had tried other methods of discipline, including time outs and spankings, but to no avail.

"He'll turn and look at you like, 'Is that all you've got?'" Beagley said.

Beagley said on the episode that she had first tried putting soap in her son's mouth, but it had no effect.

"I want him to obey and listen and to understand the consequences of his choices," Beagley said.

On the website for "Dr. Phil," McGraw appears in a supplemental video, calling Beagley's case "extreme" and saying that Beagley needs "a wake-up call."

"I hope it makes all of us stop and grade our papers about how we're doing as parents," McGraw said.

According to a Ria Novosti article in January, the month Beagley was charged, Russian authorities in the United States are monitoring the case because Beagley adopted her son and his twin brother from Russia.

Beagley's lawyer, William Ingaldson, said a representative from the Russian consulate in Seattle had since visited the family and was satisfied with the home environment.

The Beagleys, who have six children, adopted the twins from Russia when they were 5, Ingaldson said. The boy who was punished in the video has reactive attachment disorder, a behavioral problem that makes effective discipline difficult, as the child has a "survival" mentality, Ingaldson said. The disorder can occur when a child does not bond with a parent within the early years of life and affects the sense of right and wrong.

Ingaldson said his client mistakenly went on "Dr. Phil" to find a way to effectively get through to her son, knowing her methods were not working.

"The show isn't about getting you help," Ingaldson said. "It's about ratings."

Since Beagley appeared on the show, she and her son have been going to therapy and the boy's behavior is showing improvements, Ingaldson said. The family will make a decision about an appeal after Monday's sentencing.

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Filed under: Alaska • Child safety • Courts • Justice • U.S.
soundoff (97 Responses)
  1. unbiased

    Why is America spending so much time on this mother who was only disciplining her son. Obviously she cares for him because she went out of her way to adopt him. Hot sauce may seem like a cruel punishment but in reality people eat it all the time. People wash their kids mouths out with soap and they are not sent to jail when soap can actually be harmful to our bodies.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      She was not only disciplining her son. This woman took it way too far because hot sauce can severely burn your mouth and your asophagus, especially a child whose body has not fully developed. Whatever this child did not deserve that level of punishment. This woman should be convicted of child abuse.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • ob

      to unbiased
      Just because she adopt the kid does not make her a fit mother!!!! As for the hot souce that people are eating it...People also enjoy SM ( sado masochism) but that does not meant that it is OK to do that to the kids. I bet the kid has never had a good night kiss or experience a gentle touch. This is ABUSE. because it is done to a kid.
      You can enjoy all the souces that you want – nobody is forcing YOU. THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE

      August 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    The $ 10,000.00 fine should go to the woman's son.
    But...I kept wondering: just how hot WAS the sauce?
    I love Mexican food. It's hard to get it hot enough for me.
    One night in Rome, I sat eating tons of spaghetti lacrymosa and adding red pepper with waiters standing around the table laughing at me.
    Love hot things.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jazzzzzzzz

    Buffalo, NY has the *HOTTEST* wings Joey, and yes I DOUBLE-DOG dare ya...

    August 24, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Animal crimes

    Soon it will be criminal to rub a puppies nose in his own poop and toss him outside. (can housetrain 'bout any pup in short order using this technique) It communicates "no sh/tting in the house. sh/t outside". Those who think this to be cruel usually have homes that smell of doggy-doo. They don't smell it because they are used to it though everyone else does)

    August 24, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • errr no

      I bet if it was a video of a dog being forcefed hot sauce and doused with cold water the outcry would be enormous actually.

      August 24, 2011 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©

    There are other ways to discipline children...hot sauce is definitely not one of them.
    It always amazes me that people are willing to go on these shows and confess criminal activities without any thought to repercussion....

    Hi, JIF, Cesar, et al.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ob

      to ERR nO

      I totally agree- if it was done to a dog, I bet more people would be horrified

      August 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • ob

      She is mentally unstable – because she did not think that she did anything wrong

      August 26, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Jazzzzz:
    Hot wings places always have those gradations, you know?
    I order the top of the line!

    August 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    Hot wings...yum!

    August 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Hello, banasy.
    They want to be TV stars, and this one went too far.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sara

      I agree... they should never have even committed that act of abuse let alone send it in to a national television show. These people took their child's punishment to the extreme and they should be punished for it.

      August 24, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Yeah, Jazzzz–they're hot because Buffalo's cold.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Angie

    There was a lawyer and his wife who had 2 adopted children, after they killed on of them by abusing them the other was taken from them and they were charged. People don't always adopt children because they want to share love with them , there are a lot of other reasons that are not in the least noble. Unbiased your name is a misnomer. Yes, people do eat hot sauce all the time, but for a child who had very tender taste buds and a delicate tongue it is painful to hold in your mouth. People have also died from heart attacks by being suddenly covered in cold water. Her demeanor and her actions are those of angry revenge and not of loving discipline.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jazzzzzzzz

    I could never go to a fancy-smanchy resterantA, I like to keep my elbows on the table...

    August 24, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Cesar

    @banasy/JIF: Hi

    August 24, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jazzzzzzzz

    @ Joey... lol and we get most of their arctic weather BOO HOO ...

    August 24, 2011 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Hello Cesar.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    The world is an outdoor table and Cesar is...its elbows?

    August 24, 2011 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
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