"Angry mom" from Dr Phil show given suspended sentence
ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - An Alaska mom convicted of child abuse after she was seen on the "Dr. Phil" show pouring hot sauce into her adopted Russian-born son's mouth was given a suspended sentence of 180 days on Monday.
Jessica Beagley, convicted last week of a single count of misdemeanor child abuse, was also placed on three years of probation by an Anchorage District Court judge, who ordered her to continue counseling.
Beagley, a 36-year-old mother of six who is married to an Anchorage policeman, was fined $2,500, The fine was also suspended so long as she completes her probation to the satisfaction of the court.
She had faced a maximum sentence of a year in prison and $10,000 in fines.
Municipal prosecutors filed the charge against Beagley after homemade video of her 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.
Judge David Wallace told Beagley the images were disturbing and said he was struck by how callous she appeared during the boy's ordeal.
"You didn't show an ounce of emotion, although your boy is trembling while he's swirling the hot sauce. The screaming coming from the shower is something that will be in a lot of our minds for a long time," Wallace said.
BEAGLEY WEEPS DURING HEARING
A weeping Beagley, who adopted the boy along with his twin brother from an orphanage in Magadan, Russia, told Wallace she had reached out to the television program to help her cope with her son's emotional and behavioral problems.
"As a mother, I feel that it's my most important job to love, care for, nurture and teach my children. I've tried to do that every single day that I've been a mom," she said.
The case attracted attention in Russia, where there is growing concern about adopted children from that country facing abuse in the United States, and Russian reporters covered Beagley's trial.
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.
Beagley said her son, adopted at age five, came to her "with special needs that I didn't know how to handle, that most moms don't know how to handle."
But prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said Beagley had bypassed readily available help in Anchorage to go on television.
Franklin said Beagley committed a series of cascading and humiliating punishments that were exaggerated and captured on camera to win a spot on national television.
"The evidence is she did something out of hubris," Franklin said, "a narcissistic act in order to get on television."
Franklin, who had argued for Beagley to spend 30 days in jail, said the sentence should send a message to society about how to behave in a media era where "people can, as Andy Warhol said, get their 15 minutes of fame."
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb, Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
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