"Angry mom" from Dr. Phil show convicted in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska Tue Aug 23, 2011 7:58pm EDT

Related Topics

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.

Beagley and her husband, an Anchorage policeman, left the court without speaking to reporters. She faces a maximum of a year in prison and a $10,000 fine when she is sentenced on Monday.

Municipal prosecutors filed the charge against her after homemade video of Beagley's discipline methods aired last November on the "Dr. Phil" show, sparking a furor in both 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.

Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said Beagley staged exaggerated and compounded punishments specifically to win a spot on the Dr. Phil program, which has occasionally featured so-called "Angry Moms" in segments called "Mommy Confessions."

The nationally broadcast video, which was shot by Beagley's daughter, further humiliated the boy, Franklin said.

"In the end, (jurors) 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," she said.


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 been covering the Anchorage trial, which started last week.

Russian officials had previously threatened to halt adoptions by U.S. parents unless Washington agreed to a treaty to better regulate them after a different American woman sent her 7-year-old adopted son back to Moscow on a plane last year with a note describing him as mentally unbalanced and violent.

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.

Beagley 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.

Ingaldson blamed the guilty verdict in part on what he said was a vaguely written law.

"It makes it really tough as a parent to discipline your kids and not be subject to other people's subjective ideas of what is right or wrong," he told reporters.

In addition to the adopted twins, Beagley and her husband have three daughters and a son with Down Syndrome, he said.

"This is a very good loving family," he said. "It would be really tragic if that was the case because these kids are surrounded in a caring, loving family that are trying the best to make the best for their kids."

On one point, Ingaldson agreed with the prosecutor in the case. "I think it's without a doubt, if she hadn't gone on Dr. Phil, this never would have happened," he said.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Johnston)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
olxipcc wrote:
I hope the authorities are also going after the egregious idiot known as Dr. Phil for airing this video and further encouraging insane publicity seekers

Aug 23, 2011 6:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
DJLambert wrote:
These parents should have known what they were in for when they adopted from a Russian orphanage.

Many children adopted from Russia spend their first year of life in an orphanage where there very few staff to take care of lots of orphans, and they can’t interact much with these babies. But to develop normally, a baby needs to emotionally attach to at least one caregiver. There simply is not the money in Russia to adequately staff these orphanages.

So most of these babies have no one to attach to, they withdraw, and their emotional development is warped. This puts these children as risk of developing all sorts of emotional problems. Later in life, they are more prone than average to develop psychiatric problems.

As soon as such children come to the U.S., these children need to be regularly examined by a child psychologist, who will give the parents instructions for dealing with and overcoming the almost inevitable emotional problems these children have.

It sounds like this was not done in this family, so the emotional problems these children had were allowed to fester.

Aug 23, 2011 7:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ddhriss wrote:
Lets get real with this. This gal has 4 other children and is married to a police officer. They adopted 2 Russian Orphans and found their hands full and were simply seeking help. BUT, to get help on the Dr.Phil show, you must do something that will really grab viewer attention. I think that it will be shown that this woman went to extreams to get a free ride to Southern California PLUS, a little spending $$ to boot as well. Dr. Phil is worried about one thing, and one thing only, his bottom line and staying on air, not helping people. I strongly feel that Phil is just as much at fault with this one as the woman who used hot sause.

Aug 24, 2011 3:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus