A woman in Alaska- who attracted the scorn of TV viewers and YouTube users after a clip from the Dr. Phil show circulated depicting her punishing her small son with mouthfuls of hot sauce and ice cold showers- has been convicted of child abuse in an Anchorage courtroom.
If you saw the clip the first time it circulated, you are probably not surprised by this verdict. In the clip, 36-year-old Jessica Beagley is seen shouting at the terrified boy for misbehaving in school, “drawing cards” for infractions he has committed while in the care of his teachers. The mom is then seen pouring hot sauce on the frightened toddler’s tongue before admonishing him not to spit the painful liquid into the sink as he cries in pain.
Also in the clip, Beagley is seen forcing the small child into a cold shower, shouting at him as he cries for the punishment to stop. Authorities in Anchorage began investigating the mom after the clip aired across the country, causing massive outcry. Earlier this week, Beagley was convicted on a charge of misdemeanor child abuse in an Alaska courtroom, and could face up to a year in jail.
The defendant and her lawyers contended that the abuse never occurred in earnest- Beagley argued that she played up her disciplinary tactics in order to win a spot on the show and secure help for her son. Prosecutors disagreed:
“The act of videotaping yourself punishing your child in order to try to convince a show to let you on is the abuse,” said Cynthia Franklin, a municipal prosecutor.
A legal analyst commented that the act of engaging in the abuse specifically to get on television might have actually lost the Hot Sauce Mom sympathy in the eyes of the jury, as it could be deemed especially cruel:
“The law required the jury to find her behavior was either cruelty or torture, and that’s what the jury found — convicted her of one misdemeanor count of child abuse. They’re saying the hot sauce, the cold shower and probably, most importantly, the act of videotaping the punishment — all of that taken together added up to cruelty, and therefore child abuse.”
Beagley’s lawyer argued that statutes dictating acceptable punishments for children of that age were not necessarily clear.
Watch the Hot Sauce Mom clip below- did she get off too lightly?