ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Jessica Beagley was convicted Tuesday of child abuse after disciplining a 7-year-old son adopted from Russia with hot sauce and cold showers, closing a trial that drew international attention to both Beagley’s behavior and that of producers at “The Dr. Phil Show,” on which she appeared.
The verdict came only a day after the jury received the case, following closing statements in which the prosecution said “Dr. Phil” shared the blame for Beagley’s actions -- and the defense said her actions solely punished misbehavior.
Prosecutor Cynthia Franklin said Beagley wrote to “Dr. Phil” producers after seeing a segment about angry mothers on the show, but didn’t hear back from them until a year later -- when they asked if she was still angry. During the trial, the prosecution said Beagley submitted videos of her children being punished to the show, but was told they weren’t angry enough to air.
In videos posted on YouTube and aired on the “Dr. Phil” segment in which Beagley eventually appeared, she puts hot sauce in the boy’s mouth as a punishment for lying. She then pushes him into a cold shower to punish him for being put in a time-out at school.
A viewer referred the case to state authorities after Beagley appeared on the show. Russian TV crews visited the courtroom alongside local reporters, reflecting that nation’s keen interest in the trial’s outcome.
Defense attorney William Ingaldson said the boy in the video suffered from reactive attachment disorder, which a therapist said she believed resulted from trauma sustained before he was adopted by the Beagleys. He also pointed out that the state Office of Children’s Services did not intervene in the Beagley household, despite national publicity from the “Dr. Phil” segment.
According to Ingaldson, none of Beagley’s methods amounted to torture or cruelty. He insisted they were necessary to keep her kids in line.
“We shouldn’t be here,” Ingaldson said during his closing statement.