Angry mom from Dr. Phil show convicted in Alaska

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2011 3:09 PM

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - An Alaska mom who touched off a furor when she was seen on the "Dr. Phil" show pouring hot sauce into her adopted Russian-born son's mouth was found guilty of child abuse on Tuesday.

Jessica Beagley, a 36-year-old mother of six, showed little reaction as a six-member Anchorage jury returned the guilty verdict on a single count of misdemeanor child abuse. She faces a maximum of two years in prison when she is sentenced.

Prosecutors filed charges against Beagley after homemade video of her discipline methods aired on the popular "Dr. Phil" show, sparking a furor in the United States and Russia.

Outraged viewers alerted authorities to the footage, which showed Beagley pouring hot sauce into the 7-year-old boy's mouth and making him stand in a cold shower while she yelled at him.

The hot sauce and cold shower were said to be imposed as punishment for the boy's misbehavior at school.

The case has attracted attention in Russia, where there is growing concern about adopted children from that country facing abuse in the United States. Russian news reporters have covering the Anchorage trial, which started last week.

Defense attorney William Ingaldson said Beagley's harsh punishment methods, which he said she has since abandoned, and her willingness to subject herself to public ridicule in order to obtain advice from Dr. Phil, grew out of desperation.

She and her husband had struggled with the boy, who was adopted at age 5 along with his twin brother from an orphanage in Magadan, Russia, Ingaldson said.

Both boys have since been diagnosed with an emotional disorder stemming from their difficult early years in Russia and are now in long-term therapy, the defense lawyer said.

While the punishment methods broadcast on "Dr. Phil" may be controversial and upsetting to some, they do not rise to the level of a crime, Ingaldson told jurors.

"It's not child abuse. It's not an offense to punish someone because people on a jury say they would do it differently," he said.

(Writing by Dan Whitcomb, Editing by Cynthia Johnston)